Advice and Tips

Allergies

Allergy affects 1 in 4 people in the UK at some time in their life

The term allergy describes a changed reactivity in the body to a specific substance entering the body eg. eaten, inhaled or injected. This substance may not be harmful in itself but results in an immune response and a reaction that causes symptoms and disease in some people.

The term allergy describes a changed reactivity in the body to a specific substance entering the body eg. eaten, inhaled or injected. This substance may not be harmful in itself but results in an immune response and a reaction that causes symptoms and disease in some people.

 

Allergy affects 1 in 4 people in the UK at some time in their life and each year the numbers are increasing. Young children, particularly those under the age of 2 are more likely to be affected than adults. Doctors believe that this could be because babies are not being breastfed for as long as they were in the past. Also we are introducing a wider variety of foods into their diet at an earlier age, perhaps before the immune or digestive system can cope with them.

 

Allergy sufferers have a condition known as atopy which is an inherited feature which makes them more likely to develop an allergic disorder. This is because they have the ability to produce the allergy antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) when they come into contact with a particular substance. It is this process which distinguishes ‘allergy’ from ‘sensitivity’ or ‘intolerance’.

 

The substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. The most common allergens are house dust mites, pollen, cats and dogs, insects, milk, eggs, and peanuts. The sufferer’s immune system believes that the allergen is bad for them, and so they produce the antibody IgE to attack it. This leads to other cells releasing further chemicals which together cause the symptoms of an allergic response. Some of the most common symptoms are sneezing, wheezing, sinus pain, runny nose, coughing, nettle rash, swelling, and itchy eyes, ears, lips, throat and or palate.

 

Steps to take to reduce the risk of your child developing an allergy

 

If you are pregnant and there’s a history of allergies in the family, avoid all well-known trigger foods for the last three months of pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Breast - or bottle-feed your baby for at least four months before introducing solid food.

Do not introduce eggs and shellfish until your child is at least 2 years old.

Leave out peanuts and food that contains nuts until the child is at least 3 years old. (If there is a history of allergies in the family wait until the child is 5).

 

A severe allergic reaction (known as an anaphylactic shock) requires immediate medical help. The ‘shock’ causes a sudden drop in blood pressure, as well as swelling of the throat and tongue, making breathing difficult. Shaking, sweating, projectile vomiting, fainting and even loss of consciousness may occur. The only effective treatment is adrenaline, which means dial 999 and ask. - for an ambulance immediately.

 

If you have symptoms you suspect to be caused by an allergen, you should seek advice from your GP or Practice Nurse. They will ask for as much background information as you can supply: family history, which part of the body is affected, how severe the symptoms are, triggers, self-help remedies that seem to help etc. Allergy testing is then the easiest way to find out exactly what the allergen is. The tests are becoming increasingly sophisticated and the results can lead to effective medication to relieve the symptoms, prevent the symptoms and help point to avoidance measures.

 

Skin Prick Testing is the most commonly used test and can offer reliable results within 20 minutes.

Blood Tests may be taken by your GP and the sample is sent to a hospital laboratory and the results are available in 7 to 14 days.

 Patch testing is used on sufferers with eczema. 


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