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FAQ  and Answers for allergies

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1. What is “allergy” and how is it caused?

‘Allergy’ is defined as “a hypersensitive state”. It is derived from the Greek words ‘allos’, meaning other, and ‘ergon’, meaning work. An allergic reaction is nothing but an altered or exaggerated reaction, which means that the allergy patient lives in an altered state of hypersensitivity. Allergic reactions can develop at any time in life. The peak age at which allergy develops, however, is in the late teens.

Allergic reactions are caused by the interaction of a person’s immune system with the outside world. Any substance which can induce an allergy antibody type of immune reaction is referred to as an allergen.


2. Which are the most commonly encountered allergens?

Anything under the sun, including the sun can cause an allergy. However, the most common causes of allergy are allergens derived from pollens, molds, house dust mites, animal danders and insects. Altered reactions to foods and medications also cause allergies.

 

3. What are the most common allergic diseases?

The most common diseases caused by allergy mechanisms are those of hay fever (allergic rhinitis), asthma, eczema (allergic dermatitis), contact dermatitis, food allergy and urticaria (hives).

 
4. How can an allergy be diagnosed?

The diagnosis of an allergy disease is made on the basis of a detailed medical history and physical examination. The diagnosis of an allergic disease cannot be made by a blood test alone. A number of allergy skin tests might be needed to detect the real causes of the allergic reactions and consequent symptoms.

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5. What is the treatment for an allergy?

Allergy treatments involve 3 fundamental principles.
  1. Avoidance of the known irritant or allergen responsible.
  2. When avoidance of a specific allergen source such as house dust or certain pollens is impossible, then drug therapy is used.
  3. When the above two methods fail in controlling the person’s allergic disease, specific allergen immunotherapy are used to prevent the progression of the allergic disease. This is the only treatment available today that can actually change a patient’s immune system back toward normal.

 

6. Are allergies seasonal?

The allergy season really never ends. Summer is the grass and weed pollen season; during rainy season, people can experience both a ragweed and mold allergy season, and finally in the wintertime, people who suffer from allergies go into the “indoor allergy season”. The most common indoor aeroallergens are the house dust mite, cockroach droppings, indoor mold spores and pet animals.

 
7. Can a person outgrow an allergy?

It is not possible to grow out of an allergy. However, one can lose a sensitivity to certain foods if one totally avoids the offending food allergen. This occurs in most children who develop hives due to cow’s milk. Later in life, the same person can tolerate milk and other cow proteins. But unfortunately, totally avoiding exposure to certain pollens, molds and dust is not possible and hence, individuals allergic to these continue to have allergic diseases.
 

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 19,2012