Allergies are a common immune system response to substances that are typically harmless to most people. These substances, called allergens, can trigger an allergic reaction when they come into contact with a person who is sensitive to them. Allergies can affect people of all ages and can range from mild to severe, with symptoms that can range from annoying to life-threatening. Some common allergens include pollen, dust mites, animal dander, mold, and certain foods. Allergies can be managed with medication and avoidance of allergens, but it's important to seek medical attention if symptoms are severe or interfere with daily life.
Allergies are an abnormal immune response to harmless substances, called allergens. These allergens can include pollen, dust, certain foods, insect venom, and medications. When an allergen enters the body, the immune system mistakenly identifies it as a threat and produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This triggers the release of chemicals, such as histamine, which cause allergy symptoms.
Allergy testing can help identify the specific allergens that trigger an individual's symptoms. The two primary types of allergy testing are skin tests and blood tests. Skin tests involve pricking the skin and applying a small amount of the suspected allergen to the skin's surface. If the person is allergic to the allergen, a raised, red, itchy bump will appear. Blood tests measure the amount of IgE antibodies in the blood in response to specific allergens.
Once allergies are identified, the most effective treatment is avoidance of the allergen. This can involve simple measures, such as closing windows to prevent pollen from entering the home, or more significant lifestyle changes, such as switching to a hypoallergenic diet. Medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroids, can also help alleviate symptoms.
In some cases, allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, may be recommended. This involves exposing the person to small amounts of the allergen over time to build up tolerance and reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Immunotherapy is typically reserved for individuals with severe allergies that are not effectively managed with medication and avoidance measures.
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