Allergies are a common plight for many Americans. In fact, allergies affect more than 50 million Americans and rank as the sixth leading causes of chronic illness in the United States, costing $18 billion annually. But why do so many of us suffer from allergies, and if it is such a common ailment, when should we see a healthcare provider about it? Here’s what you need to know.
What are allergies?
Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system. The allergen, or substance that causes the allergy, can range from certain foods to dust mites and dander to weeds. Some allergies can be outgrown, like some food allergies that occur in childhood. Other allergies don’t occur until later in life as a reaction to medications or contact with new substances like latex or penicillin.
What are the symptoms of allergies?
Allergies are different for each individual. For the most part, people with allergies will experience an array of the following:
- Runny nose
Some of the most common allergy problems include hay fever, asthma, hives, eczema, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and sinusitis. The most dangerous and severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. Symptoms of this dangerous reaction include tingling of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or lips, light-headedness and chest-tightness. If not treated, this condition can progress into seizures, respiratory distress, cardiac arrhythmia or shock. It can even result in death. If you are concerned you might be experiencing anaphylaxis, immediately call 911 or go to the ER.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can have allergies. In fact, people aren’t just born with allergies, although that definitely happens. Allergies can develop over time, even in elderly individuals. From asthma to dairy allergies to hives, you can become allergic to something at any point in your life.
Can allergies be prevented?
In most cases, allergies cannot be prevented. But allergic reactions can. Once you understand what you are allergic to and how that allergic reaction is triggered, you can avoid contact with the allergen. For instance, if you are allergic to milk, avoiding dairy can prevent an allergic reaction. If you have hay fever allergies, staying in an air-conditioned environment during peak hay-fever season can help prevent any reactions. You can also take medications to counteract reactions or even minimize symptoms. Another option is to be immunized with allergy injection therapy.
When should you see a healthcare provider?
If you think you might be suffering from allergies, the first step is seeing your healthcare provider. He or she can diagnose your allergies and help you understand how to avoid triggers. Before the appointment, write down all of your symptoms and any medications you might have taken recently. This can help your provider target your allergies and prescribe the best medication for your symptoms.
If needed, your regular health care provider might refer you to an allergy specialist. An allergist can pinpoint what you’re allergic to and how to avoid your triggers.
Ready to get your allergies under control? Call us today to schedule an appointment.