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Allergies: A major health problem

by Medindia Content Team on  November 7, 2002 at 4:22 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
Allergies: A major health problem
Among various ailments 'allergies' are the ones that claim millions of victims throughout the world. In US alone it affects 45 million people annually. While many ailments can be accounted for external organisms like microbes or due to the deficiency of essential nutritive component like Vitamins, allergies are triggered as a specific reaction to a normally harmless substance, one that does not bother other people.
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In other words allergies are in sharp contrast with the killer disease AIDS, Allergy symptoms appear on account of too much immunity while in AIDS there will be too little immunity to prevent the disease. The substance that triggers this syndrome is known as allergens. Allergens are classified as "indoor allergens" and "outdoor allergens" Dust mites, animal dander and similar other substances which we come across under carpets and pillows at our home constitute the former, while billions of particles of pollen and other such similar substances present in gardens constitute the latter.

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Allergic reaction may also be due to insect bites. Though food allergies are extremely unlikely, eatables like chocolate, egg and fish may be harmful for those who are prone to food allergies. The skin and gastro-intestinal tract are the most common sites where symptoms manifest. Gastro-intestinal symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain and swelling of throat while on the skin it would be itching, redness and even burning sensation.

Allergy bears different names depending on the site of occurrence on our body. When allergy explosions occur in the nose and sinuses it is known as hay fever or allergic "rhinitis". When it occurs in lungs we call it as asthma. In the event of symptoms surfacing on the skin it is described as "hives". When it attacks the whole body violently it is known as "anaphylaxis" and in this case victims have to be rushed to the hospital at the earliest.

An allergic person's immune system acts like a garrison of jittery sentries patrolling a volatile border. When an 'enemy' is spotted the body responds with overkill: a huge army or immunoglobulin (IgE) (plentiful in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts) that release inflammatory chemicals including the one that is known as 'histamine'.

These trigger a classic allergic reaction. When the 'histamine' comes into contact with lungs it induces wheezing and in the vent of attack occurring on the skin it results in hives. Indoor allergies can be kept away by preventing dust mites, animal dander and other such substances coming into contact with our body. Dr. Mary Worstell, an eminent authority attached to American Asthma and Allergy Foundation observes: Your bedroom is where you spend most of your time. If you are allergic to animal danders don't let your pets sleep in there. Strict avoidance of the allergens is the first step in getting rid of this health care problem.

In the case of infants if there is a family history of food allergies it is safe to breast-feed the baby with holding solid foods for at least six months. Also in order to desensitize, a series of allergy shots containing allergens may be given to the patients that has a chance of reducing the allergy symptoms over a long periods of time. This is known as 'immunotherapy'.

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