Sick and tired of allergies ruining your day? Had enough of sneezing, being congested, and having swollen, itchy eyes? Always asking yourself: "What am I allergic to?" Read this brief overview explaining allergies and what you can do to combat them. We're here to make dealing with allergies easier and more convenient.
What is an allergy?
Your immune system can mistake a normally harmless substance for a dangerous invader– classifying it as an allergen, as far as your body is concerned. The immune system then produces antibodies that remain on alert for that allergen. When you're exposed to the allergen again, the antibodies release immune system chemicals, such as histamine, that cause allergy symptoms: potentially inflaming your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system.
A general overview of common allergy triggers follows:
- Airborne allergens: dust, pollen, mold, animal dander, etc.
- Food! The most common food allergies are to peanuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts, and milk.
- Substances you touch, which can cause allergic skin reactions. Poison ivy and latex are the most common examples, but other common triggers include citrus fruit (especially the peel), fragrances, hair dyes, and leather (due to the chemicals used in tanning leather).
- Medications: typically penicillin or penicillin-based antibiotics.
- Insect stings, such as from a bee or wasp.
The most common reaction to an allergy is allergic rhinitis caused by airborne allergens. This blog post will focus on that, while future ones will cover the other common reactions. There are two types of these allergies: seasonal and perennial. Symptoms of seasonal allergy are usually caused by sensitivity to airborne mold spores or to pollen from trees, grasses or weeds.
As the name suggests, symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis can occur year-round. These symptoms are generally caused by sensitivity to dust mites, mold, pet dander or cockroaches. Most of these triggers can be found indoors: in carpeting, pillows, bedding, heavy draperies, and upholstery. Mold in particular is typically found in damp areas such as basements and bathrooms.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis
- Itching of the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth
- Ear pressure or fullness
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Prolonged, sometimes violent sneezing
- Headache, likely caused by congestion. (headache or migraine? how do I tell?)
- Watery, itchy, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Fatigue (often reported due to poor quality sleep as a result of nasal obstruction)
- Postnasal drip that causes coughing or a sore throat
It's possible that your symptoms can't be quelled by over-the-counter medication. In fact, they can become serious to the extent that they severely hinder the quality of your daily life. It is possible that your situation develops into an infection in your congested sinus cavities (a sinus infection).
All of these symptoms actually occur from your body's effort to protect itself: either by trapping (congestion) and expelling (sneezing) the allergen or by swelling body areas, such as the nasal passages, so the allergen can't enter.
Consequences of allergic rhinitis:
- Missed days of work or school
- Sleep disorders
- Decreased decision-making capacity
- Impaired hand-eye coordination
- Decreased concentration and focus
- Problems remembering things
We know that it's not easy. Your allergies have very real consequences. That's why we're here to help!
Although allergic rhinitis isn't serious in itself, it can have a grave impact on the quality of your life, especially if you suffer from the perennial variety. So you'll want to take any measure you can to improve your well-being. Preventing allergic reactions depends on the type of allergy you have. So you should consult a doctor to determine what you are allergic to. Once you've done this, you can come up with an action plan to overcome your body's misguided defensive reaction. Although it's best to target specific triggers once you know what your allergy is, here are two general measures that provide a good starting point:
Keep a diary. When trying to identify what causes or worsens your allergic symptoms, track your activities, when symptoms occur and what seems to help you feel better. This process could help you and your doctor identify the triggers.
Avoid known triggers. Even if you're treating your allergy symptoms with medication, try to avoid triggers. If, for instance, you're allergic to pollen, stay inside with windows and doors closed when pollen levels are high. If you're allergic to dust mites, keep the places you frequent very clean. This means vacuuming, dusting, and washing bedding and other linens often.
If you're unsure what to do about your mild allergies you can use RingMD to consult a doctor without sacrificing a lot of time or energy. You can see a doctor from the comfort of your own home, or wherever you may find yourself, using RingMD’s new instant call feature or by scheduling an appointment with a doctor through our global online directory of world-class doctors.
Connect with a doctor on RingMD. Why leave home to see a doctor if you don't have to? See a doctor online now. When appropriate, the doctor is able to provide you with a signed Medical Certificate (MC) if they believe you need one for work or school reasons.
We're also focusing on increasing access to mental health care. If you're thinking "I need a therapist near me" but don't know where to start, try the RingMD therapist directory. We will help you find the right therapist for YOU!