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  Allergic reaction

An allergic reaction is the body's response to a potential "invader", a substance which foreign also called an antigen that is capable of triggering the immune system. The immune system is the body’s capacity to protect or repel against harmful agents such as bacteria and toxins. However, an overreaction to a harmless substance such as an allergen, a mild antigen is called hypersensitivity, or an allergic reaction.

Allergic reaction Allergies
Allergic reaction


Any substance that is foreign can be an allergen. Some examples of allergens are dust, pollen, plants, some medications (e.g. antibiotics), certain foods (e.g. nuts, seafood, legumes, insect venoms, insect stings (e.g. wasps, bees), viruses and bacteria.

Allegric reactions may vary ranging from a localized area or as one spot, such as a small skin rash or itchy eyes, or a generalized in form which is distributed all over, as in a whole body rash. This reaction may be accompanied by one or several of the following symptoms: skin redness, itchiness, swelling, blister formation with weeping and crusting, rash, eruptions and most commonly the appearance of hives or wheals (itchy welts); respiratory symptoms may include wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath with coughing episodes; headache and angioedema of the face manifested as facial swelling including puffiness of the eyelids, lips, tongue and throat; nasal discharge characterized as thin and clear with accompanying stuffy nose and sneezing; eyes may be very red with itchiness, swelling and watery and lastly, abdominal pain with or without nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Almost anything can trigger a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction.

The clinical picture and the symptoms of an allergic reaction depend on the part of the body which is involved and how severe the reaction is. Some reactions affect many areas, while others just affect a particular single area. Reactions to the same allergen vary from one individual to another.

Medical history is very important especially questions about symptoms and the timing or onset of appearance of the typical signs of hypersensitivity reactions. Blood tests and x-rays are not usually needed by the doctor except under unusual circumstances like when a systemic disease is suspected.

The best treatment for allergic reaction is avoidance of triggers. If you had determined for yourself that you are allergic to a certain food for example, peanuts then do not eat them. Also, be careful in consuming any food products prepared with or around peanuts.

Treatment of small allergic reactions with mild symptoms is by the use of prescribed or nonprescription allergy medications such as an oral antihistamine (e.g. diphenhydramine (Benadryl). However, you have to be careful with these antihistamines because it crosses the blood-brain barrier and may make you too drowsy to drive or operate machinery safely. In children, learning at school is affected as well because of affecting concentration. These sedating antihistamines should be taken for only a few days. An alternative is the use of newer non-sedating antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin).

For rashes, an anti-inflammatory steroid cream such as hydrocortisone may be applied topically.

For those patients with small, localized skin reactions, try applying cold, wet cloths or ice and even a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to the affected area.

For long-term allergies such as hay fever or reactions to dust or animal dander, the following medications may provide relief : Long-acting non-sedating antihistamines, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin) which can be taken for several months or even indefinitely; topical or nasal corticosteroid sprays are widely prescribed if the nasal symptoms are not relieved by antihistamines. Examples are fluticasone (Flonase or Flixotide), mometasone (Nasonex), and triamcinolone (Nasacort). Nasal steroid sprays work very well and are considered safe without the side effects of taking steroids by mouth or injection.

For severe reactions which can cause serious life threatening anaphylactic shock, the following medications are usually given immediately to rapidly reverse the ongoing symptoms: epinephrine, antihistamines and corticosteroids.

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