I never used to struggle with allergies, I now sneeze about 70 thousand times a day and my nose starts running randomly throughout the day. Why, you ask? I have no idea! Then it hit me, why am I sneezing all the time and what am I allergic to? I then noticed that a lot of my patients at work, as well as friends and family, are having the same problem.

An allergy occurs when your body encounters a harmless environmental substance and your immune system attacks it. Allergens that are commonly inhaled are tree and flower pollen, animal dander, dust and mould. Allergens that are often ingested include medications and foods such as eggs, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, and shellfish other things that can cause allergies are nickel, copper, and latex. Allergies can affect any part of one’s body. In the nasal passages, one can experience itching, a stuffy or runny nose, a post nasal drip, some facial pressure and in some cases pain. In the mouth area, one can experience a tingling sensation, swelling of the mouth and lips, itching in the throat, red and swollen eyes with itching, wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. The skin usually responds with hives, rashes and swelling. Symptoms can present themselves anywhere from immediately to a couple of days, and the severity occurs in ranges from mild to severe.

What causes an allergic reaction?

The function of the immune system is to protect your body from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens and will destroy them once recognised. However, when you experience an allergic reaction it is due to your immune system mistaking a substance that is harmless as a potential threat and attacks them.

There are two types of allergic responses, acute response and late-phase response. When one experiences an acute immune response or reaction, an antigen provokes the release of chemicals which are responsible for the symptoms we classify as an allergy. Once the acute response subsides, late-phase reactions can transpire and provide long-term effects.

What is classified as an allergic disorder?

Atopic Dermatitis – Is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder and is usually characterized by rashes that are dry, scaly and itchy, and can become infected if one does not treat them. Common triggers for this disorder include temperature, humidity, irritants, infections, food, inhalant and contact allergens and emotional stress. People suffering from atopic dermatitis have diminished skin barrier function. When important lipids in the skin are lost, moisture escapes from the surface layer of the skin and the skin becomes dry, causing cracks to develop thus allowing allergens and microbes easy access.

Allergic Rhinitis – This is inflammation of the nasal mucosa in response to allergens such as pollens, dust mites, moulds and insects. Some common symptoms can include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, teary eyes and itchy nose, throat or skin.

Asthma- Asthma is an inflammatory disease defined as an obstruction of airflow and airflow hyperresponsiveness. When people have asthma, the inner lining of their airways have become inflamed and the muscles surrounding the airways become tight. Mucous glands in the airways secrete thick mucus. These changes cause the airway to narrow, which leads to difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, cough and wheezing.

Food Allergy- The gastrointestinal system plays a pivotal role in food allergies and food sensitivities and acts as a semipermeable barrier, which allows usable molecules into the bloodstream after food has been broken down. If the intestinal wall has been impaired by infection or inflammation, the barrier function is jeopardised which allows large molecules to enter through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. Generally food allergens include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, soy and wheat. The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, swelling of the throat, hives, swelling and itching of the mouth, diarrhoea and wheezing.

How do I test for an allergy?

Scratch or Skin Prick Test
Radioallergosorbent Test
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay
Differential Leukocyte Count
Elimination-Challenge Diet

How do I treat an allergy?

Antihistamines – These pharmaceuticals inhibit the effect of histamine and reduce the signs and symptoms of an allergy. Oral antihistamines can be used to manage nasal symptoms including congestion, sneezing, itchy or runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. They may also control skin flares and itching, and smooth muscle constriction in the lungs which produces wheezing and aggravates asthma. These medications may cause drowsiness and loss of coordination.

Decongestants – These medications cause small arterioles to contract and minimise fluid and mucous secretion. Decongestants are usually medications, nasal sprays, or eye drops. These are often sold in combination products with antihistamines. Side effects are generally increased blood pressure, arrhythmia, heart attack, anxiety, and dizziness.

Glucocorticosteroids – These are anti-inflammatory medications taken orally, topically and inhaled into the lungs. Intranasal corticosteroid sprays are utilised in treating allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. Relief can be expected after 7‒8 hours of dosing but it may take two weeks before the medication becomes completely effective. Inhaled corticosteroids are generally used in treating persistent moderate to severe asthma. It can decrease symptoms, minimise airway hyperresponsiveness and inflammation and promote lung function. Topical corticosteroids are used to treat eczema.

Leukotriene Antagonists – Leukotrienes are produced in mast cells and other white blood cells and add to the allergic response. Leukotriene antagonists are intended to hinder leukotriene production and are utilised to manage seasonal allergic rhinitis and mild persistent asthma.

Cromolyn Sodium – This is used as a nasal spray for rhinitis and inhaled for asthma and bronchospasm. It works by securing mast cell membranes, inhibiting them from releasing histamine.

Beta-Agonists – These medications selectively activate beta-1- and beta-2-adrenergic receptors, causing smooth muscle relaxation and bronchodilation. In combination with inhaled corticosteroids, they help to decrease nighttime asthma and reduce the number of exacerbations.

Immunotherapy – this involves a gradual desensitization of the immune response. One receives increasing quantities of the particular antigen to cause the immune system to generate a protective antibody. Treatment may be continued for a couple of years. It is the only treatment that can minimise symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis over time.

Natural treatment for allergies

Probiotics – Probiotics is a term given to a group of microorganisms in the form of bacteria or yeast.

Vitamin D – You can find Vitamin D in fatty fish, foods fortified with vitamin D, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.

Vitamin E – You can find vitamin E in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and fortified foods.

Vitamin C – You can find vitamin C in broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, orange juice, papaya, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Magnesium – You can find this in green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and seafood.

Kind of makes a little bit more sense now why I am forever sneezing. I hope you enjoyed some insights to the different types of allergies.