Creating New Allergies
Allergies - One out of every three people suffers from allergies: the
runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing that most people call hay
fever. Even if the symptoms are not terribly overt, allergies
can severely impact day to day living and can have potentially
more serious side-effects to seniors, especially those in poor
Anything that causes an allergic reaction is called an
allergen. The most familiar allergens are pollen, molds, dust
mites and pets, though there are dozens of other allergens
such as cigarette and cigar smoke. Allergens cause a release
of histamine, which dilates the blood vessels in and around
the nose. This speeds up the arrival of germ-fighting cells to
the infected areas.
If you suffer from allergies, your eyes may become itchy and
watery. You may also experience increased mucus production and
a runny nose. Germ-fighting cells get washed down the throat
in the mucus, which can irritate the throat and cause
soreness. Coughing and sneezing is the way your body attempts
to keep the airway clear of both mucus and allergens.
people, allergies are a mild inconvenience experienced at
certain times of the year. For those with severe reactions,
allergies can result in more serious conditions, such as
sinusitis, earaches, skin rashes, breathing difficulties and
What are allergies?
are an overreaction by the body's immune system to ordinarily
harmless substances. According to the American Academy of
Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergies are a widespread
medical condition affecting more than 20 percent of the United
People can have allergic reactions to many types of substances
that are inhaled, eaten, or touched, or that come into contact
with the body in some other way. The most common allergens
(substances that produce an allergic response) include plant
pollens, mold spores, dust mites, animal hair, stinging
insects, foods (e.g., eggs, milk, nuts and seafood), latex,
certain ingredients in cosmetics and dyes, poison ivy or
poison oak, and certain drugs.
Allergies commonly cause respiratory or skin symptoms. Most
cases are unpleasant but not serious, though several hundred
people die each year in the United States from severe allergic
reactions - called anaphylactic shock - to foods, insect bites
or drugs such as penicillin.
Allergies are diagnosed through a medical history, a physical
examination and skin tests using diluted samples of suspected
allergens. However, people usually find out that they are
allergic to something when they experience a reaction to it.
People with common respiratory allergies such as hay fever
often experience watery, itchy eyes; sneezing; and a runny
nose. Skin allergies can produce itching, rashes, blisters or
Some people can experience extreme reactions to allergens.
Anaphylactic shock in response to foods, insect stings or
drugs may result in swelling of body tissues (including the
throat), vomiting, cramps and a drop in blood pressure. When
this occurs, it is considered a medical emergency that
requires immediate attention.
How should allergies be
A person with allergies may need
to take medication such as antihistamines, decongestants and
anti-inflammatories to relieve symptoms. In some cases, a
series of injections (immunotherapy) may help make the person
less sensitive to allergens.
See your doctor about your allergy symptoms if:
- Your symptoms
are accompanied by fever or earache.
experience difficulty breathing.
Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to clear up a bacterial
infection if present, and may also recommend a longer-term
solution, such as allergy shots.