The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America claims that around 100 million Americans develop different types of allergies annually. Allergic disorders are ranked sixth among diseases provoking chronic health conditions.
Types of allergies, their symptoms, and their triggers vary. This is why many people cannot understand what is going on with them until they visit a doctor. To grow your awareness about allergic disorders, we created this brief guide that will take you through all the essentials of allergies within a few pages.
What is Allergic?
Allergic reactions occur when the immune system responds excessively to typically harmless substances, triggering inflammation and symptoms that include:
- Swelling of face/throat;
- Sneezing, runny nose;
- Itchy throat;
- Skin rash, hives;
- Itchy eyes;
- Stomach upset;
- Coughing, wheezing;
- Shortness of breath;
Also, there are atopic dermatitis and other specific allergic reactions. You can suffer from a unique allergen or allergic disease, so if you have doubts about your illness, you better go to the clinic for a professional opinion.
Except for allergic reactions that we named earlier, you also can experience some rare allergic disorders, like:
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: a severe skin reaction that can cause blisters, shedding of the skin, and flu-like symptoms, often triggered by certain medications.
- Cold Urticaria: allergic hives triggered by cold air or water, causing welts and itching.
- Aquagenic Urticaria: hives and itching occur after skin contact with water, regardless of the temperature.
- Cholinergic Urticaria: tiny hives and itching arise because of the growth in body temperature, often triggered by sweating, hot showers, or emotional stress.
- Red Meat Allergy: an allergic response to a carbohydrate found in red meat. It often develops after being bitten by the Lone Star tick.
- Occupational Asthma is triggered by workplace allergens, such as dust, chemicals, or fumes.
This list is incomplete, so you may check with your healthcare provider for more details.
Common Types of Allergic Disorders
There’re many rare allergic disorders, but you can classify them by the sources of your allergy. If you’re not sure about the type of allergic skin disorder you have, don’t delay a visit to the doctor’s office to figure this out.
Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, provokes sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy eyes, sore throat, and other annoying symptoms. Its common triggers are pollen, dust, and dander of pets.
Asthma is a chronic health condition that affects people’s airways. Its typical symptoms are wheezing, cough, tightness in the chest, and trouble breathing. Among other allergic diseases, asthma is a leader in death rates. If you don’t cut an asthma attack in time, it may cause suffocation and death.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
According to the 2022 Global Report on Atopic Dermatitis, this skin condition affects over 223 million people globally. Of them, 43 million are children aged 1 – 4 years old. The disease symptoms include redness, burning, dryness, and itchiness. The affected areas are swollen and covered with cracked skin.
People may develop food allergies in response to specific proteins in their meals. The manifestations of such immune overreactions vary from mild to severe and may show through hives, swelling of the lips and tongue. In some cases, anaphylaxis is possible, and therefore a risk of death is present.
Drug allergies result from an immune response to the intake of medication. Such a reaction may develop regardless of whether you take a prescription, OCT, or herbal preparation. The symptoms typically include rash and hives, but an anaphylactic reaction is also possible, so you’d better be careful with every drug you use.
Development of Allergies Factors
Some people are more prone to developing allergic diseases than others. Below, find some factors that increase your chances of getting an allergy.
The tendency of allergic diseases running in the families is often referred to as atopic. Scientists claim that more than 50% of children born in such families will develop an allergy during their lifetime compared to 20% of kids born from allergy-free parents.
Every bit of air we breathe in may contain some natural pollutants, like pollen, fungi, dust mites, or animal dander. These tend to be the most often reported causes of allergic conditions in children and adults.
Early childhood exposures
Childhood allergies become more common each year. This is mainly related to early childhood exposure to outdoor and indoor pollutants. Based on scientific research, outdoor exposure to SO2 and NO2 and indoor exposure to new furniture, window condensation, and other factors become the leading causes of allergy in young kids.
Diagnosis and Testing
The treatment of allergic autoimmune disorders requires quality diagnostics and testing of a patient. To get the complete picture of your disease, your healthcare provider will need you to undergo several tests and physical examination. Let us tell you more about that.
Clinical history and examination
As genetics plays a significant role in allergic disease development, your GP will ask you about any allergies running in the family. A detailed medical history and physical examination will help the professional to determine your problem correctly.
Skin prick tests
This testing allows checking you for about 50 possible allergy-causing substances simultaneously. To do a skin prick test, a nurse will mark your skin and apply 50 different allergen extracts next to them. The test is not painful as you only feel your skin being scratched. Additionally, histamine and glycerin will be added to the test to exclude false allergy results.
You may need to wait for the test result for 15 – 20 minutes. If you are allergic to the substance, the area of your skin where it is applied will get itchy and red. In some cases, local swelling is possible.
Blood tests (specific IgE tests)
Blood samples are scrutinized to detect the levels of specific immunoglobulin E, known as IgE, antibodies, with which the immune system responds to allergens, thereby assisting in identifying precise allergic triggers. Such tests are predominantly used to detect food allergies.
Conducted under medical supervision, controlled exposure to suspected allergens helps confirm allergies, observing how the body reacts and ensuring safety throughout the process.
Allergic Disorders Management and Treatment
While allergies can bring a lot of discomfort and decrease your quality of life, there are still ways to manage your condition and keep it under control with multiple treatments and lifestyle changes.
Avoiding an allergen is always better than treating the consequences of your contact. Avoidance strategies tend to be the best here. It’s all simple:
- If you have a food allergy, make sure you exclude the triggering product from your diet. Yes, this brings a lot of extra challenges at first, but eventually, you’ll have no trouble keeping an eye on what gets on your plate.
- If you are allergic to pollen, wear a facemask and glasses when outside. It’s also worth taking a shower and changing your clothes to wash off the pollen that may stick to your skin or clothing.
- If you are allergic to pet dander, choose pet breeds that don’t cause allergies, like poodles, hamsters, sphynx cats, or guinea pigs.
As you see, there’s a way out. You only need to adapt your life to a specific allergy. Still, this tactic may not work for allergic to smells disorder.
The pharmacies got a whole bunch of stuff lined up, from antihistamines to corticosteroids, all geared up to relieve the symptoms of those allergic reactions and give you a break from all that itching, sneezing, and wheezing. However, these may not work for asthma and anaphylactic reactions, which is why bronchodilators (like Ventolin) and epinephrine (for hypersensitivity reactions) should always be at hand of a person with an allergic airway disorder and a range of rare allergic disorders.
Anyway, your task is to visit a doctor who will determine your specific allergen and prescribe the treatment effective in your case.
If you cannot avoid the allergen, you should learn to live with it. Immunotherapy is a kind of allergy treatment that involves receiving shots containing tiny amounts of allergen. Due to the controlled quantity of substance injected, a person doesn’t get any severe reactions to the therapy.
However, a small dose of an allergen allows the body to adjust to its effects. Gradually, the dosage of the allergen in the shot increases. This happens until the immune system doesn’t respond to the allergen.
Living with Allergic Disorders
Navigating life with an allergy may be challenging but absolutely possible. Progress in the medical and pharmaceutical spheres allows using new, more effective preparations to deal with an allergy. Also, proper diagnostics gives you the possibility to know your allergen and avoid it.
You shouldn’t take your disease as a sentence. Take it as any other obstacle you can handle and live your life to the full.
As the diversity of foods, pollutants, and medications increase, the statistics on allergies is getting worse. People’s bodies are often not ready to handle all they have to deal with. Luckily, quality and timely diagnostics, proper treatment, and lifestyle changes can do miracles and make our lives easier and better, even with an allergy.
What are the 4 main types of allergies?
The most common allergies are food allergies, environmental allergies, skin allergies, and airway allergic disorders.
Is allergy a disease or disorder?
Allergy is a disorder where the immune system reacts to harmless substances.
What are the 5 allergic diseases?
Allergic diseases include asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), atopic dermatitis (eczema), hives, and allergic conjunctivitis.
Are allergies serious?
Yes, allergies can range from mild discomfort to severe reactions, and some can be life-threatening.