Common Allergic Diseases

Hay Fever (Seasonal Allergies)

Hay fever, or also known as seasonal allergies, has little to do with hay and nothing to do with fevers. Farmers coined the phrase at the turn of the century because they saw the same symptoms year after year during harvest season.

Having hay fever is like having a cold. During hay fever season, the tissues lining your nose become inflamed, causing a stuffy feeling. Some other symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, scratch throat, and red, itchy eyes.

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Sinusitis

Sinusitis is the inflammation of the mucous membranes in the sinuses. It is caused generally by infection, allergies and irritation from toxic substances in the air.

There are two types of sinusitis:

  • acute sinusitis: this type usually responds well to antibiotics, decongestants, and antihistamines.
  • chronic sinusitis: a sinus infection that lasts longer than three months is considered “chronic.” For this type of sinusitis, medication may be temporarily effective. Chronic sinusitis usually develops when inflamed mucosal lining and anatomical obstruction make it impossible for the sinuses to drain properly.
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Asthma

Asthma is a disease affecting the airways that carry air into and out of the lungs.

Symptoms vary from person to person, but may include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, or producing a lot of mucus.

Anyone can get asthma. It is most likely to occur in children by age 5, and in adults in their 30s. Certain things increase your chances of developing asthma. For example, if one of your parents have asthma, you will be more likely to get it. If you have allergies, you are more likely to develop asthma also.

There are two kinds of asthma medications: anti-inflammatory medicines and bronchodilators.

Anti-inflammatory medicines prevent or reverse inflammation in the airways. This makes the airways less sensitive, and keeps them from reacting as easily to triggers. The following are anti-inflammatory medicines:

  • Cromolyn Sodium (Inhaled) prevents airways from swelling when they come in contact with an asthma trigger. It can also be used to prevent asthma caused by exercise.
  • Nedocromil Sodium (Inhaled) reduces airway inflammation caused by allergens and by respiratory irritants such as tobacco smoke.
  • Inhaled Corticosteroids prevent and reduce airway swelling and decrease the amount of mucus in the lungs. These are safe when taken as directed (not the same as steroids used illegally by athletes).
  • Oral Corticosteroids are used as short-term treatment for severe asthma episodes or as long-term therapy for some people with severe asthma.

Bronchodilators open airways by relaxing muscles that tighten in and around the airways during asthma episodes. The following are examples:

  • Short-acting beta agonists (inhaled) relieve asthma symptoms quickly and some prevent asthma caused by exercise.
  • Long-acting beta agonists (inhaled) can be taken with or without an anti-inflammatory medicine to help control daily symptoms. This type can also prevent asthma caused by exercise.
  • Oral beta agonists (syrup, tablets)—Syrup may be used for children while tablets may be used for nighttime asthma.
  • Theophylline (oral) can be used for persistently symptomatic asthma, and especially to prevent nighttime asthma.
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Eczema

Eczema or E is thought to be a hereditary allergic disease that causes chronic, superficial inflammation of the skin, characterized by redness, edema, oozing, crusting, scaling and intense itching. Most of these characterizations are found in the creases of joints and the trunk. Scratching may lead to bleeding and infection.

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Hives

Urticaria or Hives, are raised red welts of various size on the surface of the skin. Hives are often itchy and associated with an allergic reaction and histamine release or abnormalities in parts of the immune system.

Hives may be uncomfortable, but they generally are harmless and disappear on their own.

Many allergens can trigger an allergic response. Some common allergens include:

  • medications
  • foods (such as berries, shellfish, fish, nuts, eggs, and milk)
  • pollen
  • emotional stress
  • exposure to water, sunlight, cold or heat
  • insect bites
  • animal dander
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Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is an acute system type of allergic reaction. It occurs when a person's immune system has been triggered to recognize a substance as a threat to the body. Therefore, when there is a subsequent exposure to the substance, an sudden and severe reaction occurs.

How anaphylaxis occur: The immune system releases antibodies. The tissues release histamine and other substances. This causes muscle contractions and constriction of the airways; this results in wheezing, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal symptoms—abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. Histamine causes the blood vessels to dilate, which lowers the blood pressure, and fluid to leak into the air sacs of the lungs, causing pulmonary edema. Hives and angioedema often occur, and angioedema (hives on the lips, eyelids, throat, etc.) may be severe enough to cause obstruction of the airway.

Although anaphylaxis occurs infrequently, it is life threatening and can occur at any time.

Common causes of anaphylaxis include:

  • Foods—especially nuts, some kinds of fruit, fish and sometimes spices
  • Drugs—pencillins, anesthetic drugs, some intravenous infusion liquids and injections during x-rays
  • Beta Blockers—medicine used for heart disease or high blood pressure can change mild reactions from another cause to serve because they block the body's main defense against anaphylaxis
  • Latex—rubber latex gloves, catheters, other medical products
  • Exercise
  • Bee or wasp stings when these cause faintness, difficulty in breathing, or rash or swelling of a part of the body which has not been stung
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