What is an allergy?
Response given by our body's immune system to generally harmless substances like dust and grime, pollen, certain foodstuffs etc. by producing antibodies, is termed as allergy. Substances that are responsible for allergies are called allergens; e.g. if you are allergic to dust, then here dust acts as allergen.
In most of the cases allergies are not a cause of major concern and can be easily cured by medications.
What are types of allergies?
Allergies are classified into two categories- IgE mediated and non-IgE mediated.
What is IgE mediated allergy?
- Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is a type of allergy that responds to specific commonly occurring allergens
- Mast cells are type of white blood cells which come in contact with external environment; e.g. skin cells, eye cells, nose cells etc. They are associated with immune and neuroimmune system and comprise of heparin and histamine. IgE antibodies are secreted by mast cells in excess quantity that fight against specific allergens.
- Histamine is an organic nitrogenous compound which acts as a neurotransmitter and is produced by mast cells as immune response to pathogens (foreign bodies)
- Next time, when the same allergen enters into our body, cells are able to identify it and there are no physical symptoms of an allergy.
What are symptoms of IgE mediated allergies?
Primary physical symptoms of IgE mediated allergy differ as per the site.
Release of histamine from mast skin cells results in redness or itchiness of skin.
Runny nose and sneezing are signs when histamine is released from nose mast cells.
What is Non-IgE mediated allergy?
Secretion of IgE antibodies is absent in this type of allergy. In this type, symptoms appear after a long period of time and if left untreated, may result in severe medical conditions.
What is food allergy?
In food allergy, food acts as an allergen. Our body produces immune response to the certain foodstuff resulting in food allergy.
What are the symptoms of food allergy?
Here are some enlisted symptoms of food allergy:
- Vomiting and nausea are the most common symptoms of food allergy
- Hoarse voice
- Swelling of tongue or lips
- Feeling of itchiness in throat, mouth or other areas
- Stomach ache or stomach cramps
- Difficulty in swallowing
When these symptoms get severe, it results in anaphylaxis.
What causes food allergy?
- Food allergies are generally caused by nuts; especially peanuts. Many children however surpass this allergy when they attain age of five. Walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, cashew nuts and other tree nuts also account for food allergies.
- Seeds containing oils like sesame seeds, poppy seeds may also prove to be allergens
- Another common food allergen is milk. Lactose intolerant people usually suffer from milk and other dairy related allergens. Very few of them might be allergic towards beef as it contains some amount of protein that is found in cow milk.
- Egg is another source of food allergen wherein sensitivity is more towards the white portion of the egg rather than yolk
- If parents are allergic towards certain foods, chances are that their child will as well be allergic towards that same foodstuff
- Some people may be allergic towards wheat and wheat products
What are home remedies for food allergy?
Home remedies as well as some injections are available to cure food allergies. Depending upon intensity of symptoms, one can opt for either of them. People who are suffering from anaphylaxis (acute allergic reaction) may opt for epinephrine treatment.
Here are few tips on home remedies for food allergy:
- Mix 250ml of carrot juice and 100ml each of beetroot juice and cucumber juice and consume it daily at least for a week. This will help in detoxifying and soothe existing allergic conditions.
- Squeeze half a lemon in a glass of lukewarm water and add a tablespoon of honey to it. Drink this early in the morning on empty stomach. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) present in lemon will help in digestion and honey will provide soothing effect. You may also add few mint leaves to it for further soothing effect.
- Drinking few cups of green tea added with few drops of lemon and honey may benefit in curing symptoms caused by food allergen.
What kind of precautions should I take to avoid food allergy?
- One of the best precautionary advice is to altogether avoid that particular food allergen
- To know whether you are suffering from certain food allergies, you need to observe how your body reacts to those foodstuffs
- If your parents are suffering from a certain food allergen, chances are that you might as well be intolerant towards that particular foodstuff. Hence avoiding it can be a precautionary measure.
What is dust allergy?
When our immune system responds abnormally to dust particles which originate from various sources like soil, air pollution, volcanic eruptions etc., we can say that person is suffering from dust allergy. Plant pollen, human and animal hair, minute soil particles, human skin cells, paper and textile fibers, weather conditions like storm etc., all account for dust pollution.
What does domestic dust comprise of?
Dust mites are microscopic creatures belonging to the class of arthropods i.e. invertebrates ( animals which do not possess spinal cord) with eight legs. They are responsible for over 60% accumulation of domestic dust. These microscopic creatures are quite heavy and hence, do not remain suspended in air for long time. They generally settle down on ground after a period of 15-20 minutes.
Dust mites thrive on human dead skin cells and prefer to flourish in humid, warm and dark corners of house. When their feces come in contact with moisture, an enzyme which can kill human cells if inhaled. Dust mites can be found on mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture and carpets.
Other factors that comprise domestic dust are dead human skin cells, furniture dust and dust that is brought inside our home by winds.
How to protect yourself from domestic dust allergy?
- Since, dust mites constitute lions share in domestic dust, it is advised that one should regularly clean furniture, carpets, bedding, mattresses and places where dust mites flourish.
- House-cleaning should be kept on priority list. Clothes should be washed on regular basis.
- One should also ensure that floor and tiles are cleaned at least on every alternate day
- Dusting of computers and other electronic items is also recommendedDust that accumulates on fan blades must be cleaned at least once in a week as fans are responsible for circulating air throughout the room
- Whenever you are cleaning areas that have not been accessed since long, do it by wearing a mask so as to protect yourself from dust mites and germs
What are home remedies for dust allergy?
- If you are suffering from dust allergy, it is always better to increase your immunity strength by consuming vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C helps in boosting your resistance power, thereby protecting your body from allergies and infections. Sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits like amla, lemon etc.
- Green tea is a well known natural remedy for allergies. Drinking green tea twice a day will keep allergic conditions at bay. Now-a-days, green tea is available in different flavors like lemon, honey, tulsi (Indian Basil), mint etc., making it a delectable drink.
- Never ever under-estimate effectiveness of your everyday use kitchen ingredients. Drinking a decoction made from tulsi, ginger, honey and a pinch of turmeric will provide you good relief from your allergic symptoms.
What are causes of road dust allergy?
Some of the factors responsible for road dust allergy are enlisted here:
- Air pollution accounts for around 33% of road allergy
- Industrial and vehicle exhaust
- Vehicles running on roads
- Dust omitted by paved roads, potholes and construction sites
- Minute particles dispersed by brake wears and tires etc.
- Atmospheric matter
- Construction sites
- Landfill dumps
How to protect yourself from road dust allergy?
- Living in urban areas brings its own set of challenges. You are constantly exposed to air pollution which has serious health hazards. So it's better to avoid areas where there is high air pollution.
- Wear protective masks when traveling outside
- Try to stay away from construction sites and brick mills
- Stay in a green environment
What is pollen allergy?
Hay fever is christened as allergy caused by dispersed pollen grains and is medically termed seasonal allergic rhinitis. Androecium is male part of flower that consists of stamen. Stamen further comprises of anther and filament. Top, thick and colored portion of stamen is anther while the long, thin part is filament. Pollen grains are produced by anthers. Abnormal immunity response shown by our immune system towards pollen grains results in pollen grain allergy.
How pollen grains spread?
Some species of plants are self-pollinating while some are cross-pollinating. In self pollinating plants, pollen grains are transferred to female part (stigma) of that same flower.
In cross-pollinating plants, pollen grains have to be transferred from one specie to another through various mediums for fertilization to take place. Winds act as carrier of pollen grains. During spring and summer time, pollen sacs burst out resulting in dispersal of pollen grains. Lighter pollen grains are carried away at far distances; either by winds or animals.
What are the symptoms of pollen allergy?
Pollen allergy symptoms are mild and not of grave concern. Following are few symptoms of pollen allergy:
- High amount of mucus production
- Runny nose
- Itchiness in both the nostrils
- Frequent sneezing
- Swelling around eyes
- Red and watery eyes
- Shortness of breath
What are preventive measures for pollen allergy?
Some preventive measures for pollen allergy are:
- Avoid going outdoors during high pollen times such as early morning
- Limit your outdoor activities
- Stay indoors during windy days when pollen counts in air are high
- Always wear a mask during gardening activities as flowers might release pollen allergens
- Do not hang your clothes out to dry as pollen grains might collect on them and cause allergy symptoms
What is skin allergy and what are its causes?
When skin becomes hypersensitive to certain substances, it identifies those substances as foreign and produce allergic symptoms. There are around 73 skin allergens. Few of the important ones are enlisted here:
- Balsam of peru: Scientific name of balsam peru is Myroxylon Pereirae and it is used as fragrance in cosmetic products, perfumes, skin lotions etc.
- Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is a widely used preservative in many cosmetic products, paints, household cleaners, medications, fabric finishes etc. It may develop skin rashes on sensitive skin.
- Quaternium 15: It is a commonly used preservative in cosmetic products such as nail polishes, shampoos, sunscreens etc. and in industrial products like paints, polishes etc.
- Neomycin sulphate: Neomycin sulphate works as a topical antibiotic that is used in creams, lotions, soaps etc.
- Thimerosal: It is a mercuric compound used as a preservative in some vaccines and local antiseptics.
What are the symptoms of skin allergy?
- Eczema: Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) is a common skin condition that affects most infants and very few adults. Skin of eczema patients is dry that makes it more vulnerable to irritation and exterior environmental factors. Eczema might also be caused due to inheritance of filaggrin gene.
- Angioedema: Angioedema is a skin condition where there is swelling in deep layers of skin and generally occurs in soft tissues such as mouth, genitals and eyelids. If this condition lasts for only few days, it is called as acute angioedema. Allergic reaction to certain foods or medications might trigger acute angioedema. Hereditary angioedema is rare, but serious swelling occurs in various body parts like hands, feet, etc. It does not react to treatment with antihistamines or adrenaline.
- Hives: When inflammation of skin is caused by histamine triggered by immune system, it results in skin condition called Urticaria (hives). Urticaria is classified into two types- acute and chronic. Acute urticaria occurs when person comes into contact with certain food or skin allergen. It may also be triggered by insect bites and medications. It does not last for long time and can be easily treated. Chronic urticaria is rare and caused by specific allergens. It is sometimes painful and uncomfortable and generally lasts for long period of time from few months to years.
- Rashes: Rashes are marked by redness or itchiness of skin. They can be easily cured by applying some antiseptic cream.
What are home remedies for skin allergy?
Rashes are common symptoms of skin allergy. One need not always spend on topical skin creams and lotions. You can try some home remedies before consulting a dermatologist.
- Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera has been used since ancient times for beauty purposes. It is an excellent home remedy for treating rashes. It possess anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that help in moisturizing skin and accelerate healing of rashes. Simply cut a leaf of aloe Vera and apply that transparent gel underneath the skin before going to bed for at least 10-15 minutes. Do this regularly for a week.
- Olive oil: Olive oil is an excellent source of vitamin E and antioxidants. It helps in soothing skin and facilitates healing process. Rub some extra virgin olive oil on affected part few times a day. You may also combine coconut oil with olive oil for more benefits.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal has anti-inflammatory properties and is very effective in treating rashes caused by eczema, chicken pox, and sunburn. Grind oatmeal in a food processor or mixer and mix it with water. Apply this mixture on rashes and wash it off after 10-15 minutes. You can also add two teaspoons of milk powder and honey to the mixture for better results.
- Baking soda: Baking soda helps to dry out skin rashes, thereby relieving inflammation and irritation problems associated with it. Take baking soda and water in the ratio of 1:3, i.e. one part of baking soda to three parts of water. Apply this mixture on the affected part for five minutes. Please note, do not leave baking soda on skin for too long as this may cause extreme dryness resulting in further irritation and itchiness.
- Apple cider vinegar: Acetic acid content in apple cider vinegar helps in fighting against skin infections. Dip cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and place it on affected part. Let it be there for few minutes and then take it off. If you find it too concentrated, you can dilute it by mixing it with water. Do this for few times a day for faster results.
Can cockroaches cause allergy?
Yes, cockroaches can trigger allergy. These creatures have been around since hundreds of years and have mastered art of survival. They were there even during dinosaur time and they are here even now. Shedding body parts of cockroaches, their saliva and feces can trigger allergic reactions in some people. These allergens produce aggravating symptoms when suspended in air.
What are symptoms of cockroach allergy?
Symptoms of cockroach allergy are enlisted here:
- Skin rash
- Ear infection
- Sinus infection
- Blockage of nasal passages
What happens if you are bitten by cockroach?
Cockroaches are omnivore creatures that eat both plants and meat. They are known to take bites of fingernails, hands, feet, eyelashes of both living and dead. These bites may cause swelling and a little bit of irritation. These bites are not generally cause of major concern though.
What are preventive measures for cockroach allergy?
As the saying goes "prevention is better than cure," one needs to implement routines that help in keeping cockroach allergies at bay. Let us see few tips that will help in preventing cockroach allergy.
- "Cleanliness is next to godliness." This proverb should be seriously approached. Keep your kitchen floor, sinks, counters, garbage cans and places that are not frequently accessed clean.
- Clear laundry on daily basis as cockroaches find it easy to cover up on heaps of clothes
- Avoid piling of newspapers and magazines
- Fix water leakages so as to restrict water access to cockroaches
- Make your house pest free
Can there be pet allergies?
Yes, pet allergies do exist. If you are suffering from symptoms like a runny nose, wheezing, coughing after playing with a pet, then chances of you developing pet allergy are high. Here, pets act as allergens. Pet allergy symptoms can be easily cured with help of some medications.
What are the symptoms of pet allergy?
Some indications of pet allergy are:
- Facial pain
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
- Skin rash
What are preventive measures for pet allergy?
There are some obvious preventive steps that you can implement in order to keep pet allergy at bay. These include:
- Limit exposure to pets
- If you are having pets at home, find out some ways by which you can keep minimum contact with them
- You can try immunotherapy if you cant keep away from pets
What is dog allergy?
If your nose becomes runny or you start showing symptoms of dog allergy (refer next question) after playing with dogs, then you might be suffering from dog allergy. Allergens can be found in dog hair, saliva, dander and urine. Levels of these allergens increase if dog stays indoors.
What are the symptoms of dog allergy?
Some common symptoms of dog allergy are:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Watery eyes
How can dog allergy be avoided?
- Restrict entry of your dog to only few rooms. Do not allow dogs to enter your bedroom
- Avoid hugging and patting your dog. If you feel like doing so, wash your hands immediately with soap.
- Use vacuum cleaner regularly to reduce allergen levels
- Bathe your dog for at least once a week
Do cats produce allergens?
All cats produce allergens. These allergens can be found on cat's fur and saliva. Number of cats in home is directly proportional to levels of allergens released. If there is more than one cat at home, then levels of allergens in that home is also high.
What are the symptoms of cat allergy?
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion (blockage in nasal passages)
- Watery and red eyes
What are diagnostic tests for allergies?
Blood test and skin prick test are two commonly used allergy diagnostic test.
- Blood test: A sample of your blood is collected and is subjected to specific antibodies produced by our immune system in response to specific allergens.
- Skin prick test: It is a safe and painless allergy diagnostic test. A drop of liquid containing a specific allergen is put on your forearm and then the skin underneath is pricked with the help of needle. Itchy, red bump will appear within 15 minutes if you are allergic to that substance.
What is the cost of allergy diagnostic tests in India?
There are various allergy diagnostic tests available in India. Many hospitals and diagnostic centers in India conduct these tests and rate of these tests differ as per intensity. To get more information about the rates of the allergy tests, you can click here.