The types of allergic reactions and the symptoms they cause depend on a lot of factors. Find out more and learn how to handle them in time.
Allergic reactions can be mild, moderate, or severe. In some cases, they are life-threatening, in the form of anaphylaxis. We explain what an allergen is and what types of effects it can have on the body.
Allergic reactions consist of the body perceiving a substance (called an allergen) as harmful that it is not. Given this, an exaggerated immune response is activated to try to fight the agent.
The problem is that allergic reactions interfere significantly with everyday life. Depending on how intense it is, it can be a serious problem for the person who suffers it.
In addition, allergies can be classified into food, respiratory and skin, which denotes the variety of them. In this article we explain everything you need to know about each of them and which are the most common allergens.
Most common allergens
As we have noted, allergens are the substances that trigger allergic reactions. In a healthy person, this substance does not cause any problems. However, in those with hypersensitivity they do set the immune system in motion so that the body tries to defend itself from this supposed threat.
The incidence of allergic reactions has increased dramatically in recent years. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, nearly 7.8 million children had respiratory allergies in 2012.
In addition, 50% of people who experience a fatal allergic reaction were not known to have any allergies prior to the event. Another study states that 50% of children are sensitive to at least one allergen.
However, this does not mean that all allergic reactions occur or are diagnosed in childhood. In fact, the problem is that in many cases the opposite happens. For example, in drug allergies.
The most common allergens are animal dander (such as cats and dogs), dust mites, and pollen. Also, foods like nuts, shellfish or certain fish are also on the list. Others less common are insect bites, such as bees or wasps, and some plants.
Types of allergic reactions
Allergic reactions can be of different types. First of all, they are classified based on their intensity. Thus we find mild, moderate, severe and life-threatening reactions. The latter is called an anaphylactic reaction and we will talk about it later.
Another way to classify allergic reactions is according to the apparatus or body system that is involved. That is, the way in which the allergen comes into contact with the body and triggers the reaction. In this way, there are food, respiratory and skin.
A food allergy is one that occurs shortly after consuming a specific food. It is not necessary to ingest that a large amount of it, but small portions can trigger the reaction.
The symptoms that take place in this type of allergy are usually related to the digestive system. For example, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, they are not limited to just that part of the body. There is also shortness of breath, cough, and hoarseness. The skin may have hives, as well as the eyes may be red and itchy.
Many foods cause this situation. However, according to the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), 90% of food allergic reactions usually occur due to eight specific products that are milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, nuts, peanuts , wheat and soybeans.
It is important to note that food intolerances should not be confused with allergies. Intolerances do not affect the immune system and are not as dangerous as reactions. They consist of the inability to digest certain substances.
Respiratory allergy is one of the most obvious and most annoying, since in most cases it is difficult to stay away from the allergen. It is associated with different entities: rhinitis, rhinoconjunctivitis, asthma and alveolitis.
Allergic rhinitis consists of inflammation of the nasal mucosa when in contact with the allergen. It usually causes an increase in mucus, which causes a feeling of congestion and a stuffy nose. When this situation is in relation with conjunctivitis, it leads to allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. In this case, in addition to the symptoms mentioned, there is inflammation of the conjunctiva.
Asthma, for its part, is a chronic respiratory disease. What happens is that the bronchi undergo a continuous inflammatory process. This makes this duct narrower and narrower and the air cannot reach the alveoli in a normal way. It can occur in the form of a crisis when there is exposure to the allergen in question.
Finally, allergic alveolitis is a pathology that consists in that the alveoli themselves are the ones that become inflamed. The alveoli are the parts of the lung where gas exchange occurs. In this entity there is also usually fever and general malaise.
The most common allergens are pollens, fungi, mites and domestic animals (dogs and cats).
Allergic skin reactions can occur from having contact with the allergen through the skin. First we find hives. It consists of the appearance of reddish and edematous lesions called hives. They produce a lot of itching and even stinging.
This reaction is usually a manifestation of taking a food or medicine to which you are allergic. Eczema is the other form of presentation. It is a reaction in which vesicles, papules and scaling appear. The most common allergens that cause it are nickel and other metals.
Serious allergic reactions: anaphylaxis
Among allergic reactions, anaphylaxis is the serious clinical picture that puts life at risk. Anaphylaxis occurs because the immune system releases a large number of substances against the allergen.
These substances cause blood vessels to dilate, lower blood pressure, and close the airways. It can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, in addition to an increase in heart rate.
It is an urgent situation that requires the rapid administration of adrenaline. As we mentioned at the beginning, in 50% of the people who suffer from this condition there was not even a previous allergen identified. However, there are certain factors that increase your risk, such as suffering from asthma and heart disease.
What should you do in the face of allergic reactions?
Anyone should be tested against the most common allergens if they any of the symptoms to them. If the doctor identifies an allergy to a specific substance, it is important to take into account certain aspects.
First, you have to try to avoid this allergen. In the case of food reactions, pay attention to the labels of all foods. Also, recommendations are to wear a necklace or bracelet that indicates the dangerous substance.
On the other hand, the ideal is to have an emergency kit for the possibility of anaphylaxis. Similarly, if you ever have a reaction to a drug, it is essential to inform the doctor so that they record it in the history.
Allergic reactions can be serious
Allergies are common. The most common is that they are mild reactions that only cause discomfort. However, we must bear in mind that this can lead to serious complications. Therefore, you must always follow medical advice.
At present there are numerous tests that allow to check if there is hypersensitivity to any substance. They are easy to perform and painless. Therefore, do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions about a possible allergen.
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