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Allergies & Medical Alert IDs

Allergies and allergic reactions have become a major public health issue in the United States with roughly 50 million people being affected daily.  That means that 1 in 5 Americans, both children and adults, deal with some form of allergy.

Reactions

If you are allergic, your immune system attempts to fight off the substance by releasing different chemicals or histamine to defend against it, like it would against germs or bacteria. These chemicals cause you to have an allergic reaction and can affect your eyes, nose, throat, lungs, stomach, intestines or skin, but rarely affect your whole body. Reactions can include, but are not limited to, hives, itching, sneezing, rashes or swollen membranes; or at its worst anaphylaxis or death. Anaphylaxis is when allergic symptoms threaten breathing and blood circulation, causing severe skin symptoms, breathing problems, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps or possibly fainting. These reactions can continue to happen each time you are exposed to whatever you are allergic to, so it’s important to find out what your body reacts to and how to avoid further complications.

Food Allergies

An allergic reaction can be caused by any type of food but there are eight major foods that account for 90% of food allergy problems. These are eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat.

  • Egg allergy is quite common in children, second only to milk. The reactions range from mild to severe causing either hives or anaphylaxis.
  • Finned Fish are usually the cause of severe allergic reactions and is lifelong.
  • Milk is the most common food allergy, especially in children, and reactions can range from mild to severe. Most children allergic to milk in their first year eventually outgrow any reactions.
  • Peanuts can cause a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction and sufferers of this allergy must have quick access to an epinephrine auto-injector at all times.
  • Shellfish are either crustacean or mollusks and most reactions tend to be very severe. Being allergic to shellfish, doesn’t necessarily mean you are allergic to finned fish as they come from different families.
  • Soybean allergy is another common allergy that can occur in children, but can eventually be outgrown by age three. Reactions range from mild to severe.
  • Tree Nuts are a common food allergy that includes walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, and Brazil nuts. The reaction can be severe and potentially fatal.
  • Wheat allergy is most common in children but can be outgrown before adulthood. Reactions can range from mild to severe.

Pet Allergies

About half of the households in the U.S. have a dog or cat and an estimated 10 percent of the population has animal allergies. Most allergic reactions come from the animal’s skin dandruff but can also come from their saliva, droppings and urine. Animal hair does not usually provoke allergies but the dust, pollen and mold that can be collected in the hair have been known to cause problems. Bird feathers and droppings can also cause an allergic reaction.

Reactions to pet dander and the like can be treated with medication, antihistamines, nasal sprays or asthma inhalers. If a severe reaction has occurred, the pet should be immediately removed and having the place cleaned thoroughly.

Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis may be runny nose, itching, sneezing or a stuffy nose from congestion and is often associated with the itching of the eyes. The reaction is caused by dust or other airborne particles like pollen or pollutants being trapped in the mucous produced by the nose. There is no cure for chronic rhinitis but avoiding or decreasing exposure to any type of irritants or taking medication can decrease your symptoms.

The name “hay fever” is quite misleading when it comes to this allergy as most of the reactions come from ragweed and there is no fever associated with it.

Allergic rhinitis can develop into sinusitis, which is an inflammation or infection of the sinus cavities. This reaction can cause ear infections, recurrent sore throats, cough, headache, fatigue and irritability.

Another type of rhinitis is vasomotor rhinitis which has symptoms resulting from something that is not an infection or allergy.  This type can be triggered by cigarette smoke, odors, fumes or spices.  Some people may even be affected by sudden changes in the weather or temperature.

Drug Allergies

Drug allergies and reactions are caused by taking a drug that you or your doctor didn’t expect. These reactions can occur in any part of your body and are usually caused by a body chemistry issue.  Reactions to drugs have put up to 2 million people into the hospital per year, and the reactions range from mild to serious. Mild reactions are able to be stopped by simply quitting the drug and serious allergic reactions can be stopped with antihistamines or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Other Skin Allergies

Allergic skin reactions are very common and are often difficult to identify what causes them. Most symptoms include rashes, hives or eczema. Usually these reactions are not caused by an allergen itself but come from something that irritates the skin like soap, perfumes, detergents or plants.

A latex allergy can be serious but is rarely fatal and can be avoided by staying away from exposure to latex products. Most of the people who are at risk with this allergy are health care workers and others that frequently wear latex gloves, people who have had multiple surgeries and come in contact with latex gloves or people who have other allergies like hay fever or a food allergy.

Testing

If you continue to have reactions, you can be tested for various allergies and see what your immune system is identifying as an invader. Testing is generally safe and effective for both adults and children and the allergen extracts or vaccines meet FDA standards. If you continually suffer from respiratory ailments, itchy eyes, nose or throat, nasal congestion, itchy skin, or abdominal pains including vomiting, diarrhea and cramping, you are the prime candidate for an allergy test. By visiting an allergist you will be able to determine what affects you, how it can be treated, and you will be on your way to managing your symptoms and feeling better.

Treatment

Depending on your reaction, there are various options that can grant you relief.  Common treatments include different over-the-counter and prescription medications, antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, eye drops, inhibitors, lotions and allergy shots.

If you suffer from food or drug allergies, you should always wear a medical bracelet that shows what allergies you have and that you are subject to severe reactions. It’s also important to carry an allergy kit containing an epinephrine shot with you at all times, should anything happen: these things may save your life.