Allergies seem to be one of these conditions of modern living. Its one of those things we are seeing more of rather than less of as time goes by.
On the plus side though, most allergies, not all, are not particularly serious but they are annoying. There are a number of different things people can be allergic to. But lets take two steps back. When we are talking abut allergies, what we are really saying is that the body is reacting or responding to certain external stimuli or allergens. And what happens is the immune system, which is there to help with viruses or bacteria and other foreign matter, goes a little bit into hyperdrive so we react more strongly than we otherwise do. There are some common manifestations of allergy problems. The two most common ones are on the skin, you get a rash, we have all seen that. You’re outside, in the garden, pruning the bottlebrush and you come back with red rash on your skin. And the other type is the airborne ones where people get a runny nose, things like hayfever, sinus congestion, blocked nose and that sort of thing. The third group people can have gut type allergy but we aren’t talking about this one today. And allergies are also involved in conditions like asthma and the lungs. But for most people with allergies we are talking about the rashes on the skin or the running nose.
Alright, what can people to be allergic to? The list is seriously as long as your arm, but there are some common ones and the commonest ones we see around the household are probably dust and grasses. Now, on the plus side, again they are not terribly serious. You may get a runny nose, a bit of a cough, a bit of catar. It’s not particularly pleasant but it’s not serious. On the minus side, it is not possible to get rid of dust and grass completely, sure you can get off the hook of mowing the lawns but if there’s grass in the atmosphere or dust or even some other pollens (which are common) you may still get the symptoms.
So what can we do about allergies? Where possible or practical, where you can avoid things you know you are sensitive to then by all means do that. But don’t go overboard though. If you are sensitive to dust, try keep the house clean, but you can not eliminiate dust completely, it just can’t happen. So do your best but don’t drive yourself crazy. Again if you know you are sensitive to grass then maybe have more concrete or other plants in the garden but again, be aware that if there is grass up the street it might blow around and you can still end up inhaling it.
So what can we do treatment wise? The most widely used medications would be the antihistamines and these work by blocking the effect of histamine which is what leads the manifestations of a lot of allergy symptoms. Most of these you can buy over the counter, some can make you a little bit sleepy as a side effect, others can’t. Chat to your chemist and make sure you read the label. For skin rashes people can use hydrocortisone cream, there are some weaker ones that are available over the counter and others you do need a prescription for from your doctor. For nasal symptoms there are also prescription hydrocortisone-based sprays and again these are available on prescription from your doctor. For people who are more troubled by allergy symptoms, have a chat to your GP, there are ways you can do tests for specific allergies. In some instances, this is not for everybody – this is for people with severe allergy symptoms, people can look at being desensitised. Now thats where you have a series of injections over a period of time to make yourself a little bit less sensitive to that which you’re allergic to.
So to sum up – allergy-type problems are very, very common in all age groups, children as well as adults. For the vast majority of people it is more of a nuisance value rather than anything serious. It is often seasonal so people know a particular time of year they are more likely to get the symptoms, others can be all year round. Treatment, as we mentioned, can be some fairly simple things you can do, both in avoidance and treatment. And for those where it is more of a nuisance or more of a problem, certainly have a chat with your doctor and see what other options you may have.