Allergies are caused by the body’s reaction to substances called “allergens,” which trigger the immune system to react to harmless substances as though they were attacking the body.
When to Suspect an Allergy?
Some allergies are easy to identify by the pattern of symptoms that follows exposure to a particular substance while others are subtler. Here are some common clues that could lead you to suspect you may have an allergy:
Repeated or chronic cold-like symptoms that last more than a week or two, or that develop at about the same time every year.
These could include:
Itchy, runny eyes
Itching or tingling sensations in the mouth and throat. Itchiness is not usually a complaint with a cold, but it is the hallmark of an allergy problem. Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and other respiratory symptoms. Recurrent red, itchy, dry, sometime scaly rashes in the creases of the skin, wrists, and ankles also may indicate an allergy.
When it comes to rashes, the most common chronic inflammatory skin condition in children is eczema, also called atopic dermatitis. Although not strictly an allergic disorder, eczema in young children has many of the hallmarks of allergies and is often a sign that hay fever and asthma may develop. The rate of eczema, like that of asthma, is increasing throughout the world. Where asthma is rare, the rate of eczema is also low.
Not everybody with allergies has asthma, but most people with asthma have allergies.
Some common indoor allergens:
Molds are present in the spring and late summer
Dust mites are most commonly found in upholstered furniture, bedding, rugs.
Fungi, furry animals, clothing and toys, latex, certain foods
Controlling Indoor Allergy Symptoms:
pillows, and cushions should be encased in allergen-proof, zip-up covers
Wash linens weekly, and other bedding such as blankets, every 2 to 3 weeks in hot water to kill the dust mite.
Pillows should be replaced every 2 to 3 years.
Common outdoor allergens:
Tree pollens, which are most common in the spring.
Grass pollens, which are most common in the summer.
Weed pollens, which are most common in the summer and fall. Ragweed pollen in particular is the most common cause of fall allergy symptoms.
Controlling Outdoor Allergy Symptoms:
It’s helpful to use air conditioners, where possible, to reduce exposure to pollen in both your home and your car.
Working With Your Primary Care Provider is helpful. If needed, you may be referred to an allergy specialist for additional evaluations and treatments, depending on how severe your symptoms are. Although there are many over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays, it is very important that you work with a provider to make sure that your symptoms are correctly diagnosed and properly treated.