What is allergy?

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Sneezing, wheezing, coughing, itching and severe, eczema are  common reactions  to allergens around us.  They are mostly  triggered by allergy to  dust, mites, pollen, food  etc. Allergy can be caused by anything that is a foreign body and depending on each person's sensitivity to the foreign substance have different degrees of reactions. Some could be more allergic to the extent that it is fatal  such as in the case of bee sting or it could be  slightly lesser where they have reactions such as sneezing, watery eyes,runny nose,eczema, hives. 

 

How can  our own immune system give us problems?

Our immune system is working all the time to help our bodies fight against harmful bacteria, viruses. But in people with allergies,  the immune system is overactive and reacts  strongly to even what is considered harmless or normal.  Allergens can stimulate the immune system  by breathing pollen ,or touch like poison ivy or ingesting food  like peanuts, wheat, soy and medications. 

 

Some of the common allergens are, pollen grains, dust and mold spores. People can have different allergic reactions such as hay fever, asthma, pet allergies,food allergies, insect venoms and stings. There is no cure for most of the allergies. Kids outgrow allergies to food such as wheat as they grow older. Antihistamines, steroids and immunotherapy is used to desensitize the reaction to the allergens. These only provide symptomatic relief and have to be taken constantly to help themselves from suffering.

 

There are various medications available over the counter and prescription.  The first step in treating allergies is to figure out what is causing the allergic reactions. Its not always an easy task and mostly need an allergy doctor to help them out. The allergist finds out by doing 2 kinds of test.  It is either the skin test or the blood test. and depending on the values obtained he can decide how allergic the patient is to a particular allergen. The skin test is done by injecting  a bunch of  allergens under the skin and noting the bodies reaction to them. It doesn't cover all the allergies but most of them are covered under the test. Based on the allergic reactions the allergist prescribes different kinds of medication.

 

The antihistamines are mostly for sneezing,runny nose,watery eyes. When immune cells encounter an allergen they attach themselves to the receptors in blood vessels and cause them to enlarge. They attach to other kinds of receptors in the body triggering sneezing, congestion and redness. Antihistamines work by blocking histamine  receptors and thus stopping the symptoms.

 

Steroids work by reducing inflammation caused by allergies. Steroids are available as creams,pills and inhalers. They are prescribed for skin allergies and for nasal relief as sprays. but these have to be used everyday to get relief.

 

Corticosteroids are mostly used in skin allergies such as eczema.These are related closely to the hormone  Cortisol, found in the adrenal cortex of the adrenal gland. Corticosteroids work by preventing the receptors  from producing inflammation causing substances such as histamines and prostaglandins. But they are also stopping the white blood cells from functioning properly so the side effect of using corticosteroids is the lowering the body's ability to fight infection. So people on corticosteroids are susceptible to infections.

 

What are corticosteroid creams?

Corticosteroid creams are often used to treat inflammation from skin allergy conditions like eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. Some of the  corticosteroid creams are

  • Budesonide
  • Cortisone 
  • Dexamethasone 
  • Hydrocortisone 
  • Methylprednisolone 
  • Prednisolone
  • Betamethasone 

 

How to use your topical corticosteroid cream or ointment?

First wash the affected area of skin well and rinse it. One should pat rather than rubbing it to make it dry. Apply the cream or ointment thinly and evenly to the affected area and massage the cream or ointment into the skin until it is totally absorbed. After application wash your hands. Corticosteroids should not be applied more than once or twice a day.

 

cotton bandage can be placed over the affected area. Do not use corticosteroids under nappies or dressings, unless directed by your doctor.

  • Do not use corticosteroids on the face unless advised by a doctor. Make sure it does not get in your eyes.
  • If corticosteroids are applied on the face, they should be used for no more than five to seven days.
  • Over-use of corticosteroids may lead to thinning or weakening of the skin or other side effects.