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Allergies - Relief & Prevention

Allergies include several conditions caused by a hypersensitivity to certain (usually harmless) substances. These can include pollen, food, latex, certain medicines, etc.

Today, we’re going to go through some common allergies and describe how to limit reactions and what to do if reactions occur.

Hay fever

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is a condition where an allergen (such as pollen) causes the inside of your nose to swell. It can also affect the eyes, throat and sinuses; this leads to itchy eyes, sneezing and runny noses.

Once your body reacts to an allergen, it releases histamine which starts the inflammation response and causes the above symptoms, such as a runny nose. Antihistamines, such as Piriton, Clarityn and Cetrine, are available to help treat such symptoms. Nasal sprays, such as Otrivine and NeilMed, are also available and will help relieve stuffy noses.

There are many ways to limit your exposure to allergens, for example, showering after being outside to wash off pollen; check the pollen count daily and stay indoors when it is very high, and wear wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen from getting into the eyes.

N.B. With state exams looming it can be vital that you don’t miss exams due to allergies. Therefore, we recommend taking antihistamines, like the ones listed above, weeks in advance of the examinations.

For more information on hay fever, look at our previous blog post here.

Food Allergies

A food allergy reaction occurs when your body’s immune system overreacts to a food and triggers a protective response.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and food that once caused a mild reaction may cause a severe reaction the next time. Symptoms may range from hives, dizziness and shortness of breath to vomiting, repeated coughing, and most severely, anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe symptom of a food allergy. It can impair breathing and cause a decrease in blood pressure; anaphlyaxis must be treated immediately with an injection of adrenaline.

Common food allergies include:

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Milk
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Shellfish
  • Fish

Diagnosing Food Allergies

A food allergy will occur every time the trigger food is eaten. Those that suspect a food allergy should consult with a doctor about the risk of anaphylaxis. Most food allergies appear during childhood and some allergies are inherited. Your doctor may carry out tests to identify the allergen.

Managing Food Allergies

In order to avoid trigger foods, you must be extremely careful when buying food and ensure to check all ingredients. When eating out, check with waiters and kitchen staff to see what allergens are present on the menu. Even though the meal you order may not contain the trigger food, it may have been cooked in the same pots and pans as those that do contain the trigger foods so don’t be afraid to ask about this when dining out. Vigilance is key to any allergy, especially when there is a risk of anaphylaxis.

If you are at risk of anaphylaxis, you should ensure you always carry an EpiPen© with you; this will be prescribed for you by your doctor. Make sure that all family members and friends know how to use an EpiPen© in case of an emergency. The photo below can be used as a guide.

 

The only known preventative to food allergies, at present, is to avoid the known trigger food.

 

Medication Allergy

This involves the abnormal reaction to certain medication. Any drug, either prescription, over the counter or herbal, may induce a reaction.

Common symptoms include hives, rash and fever, but the most serious reaction can be anaphylaxis, as explained above. Further symptoms are like those induced by food allergies, listed above.

Drugs that are commonly involved in allergies include:

  • Antibiotics, such as penicillin.
  • Pain-relievers (analgesics), such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Chemotherapy drugs

If you think you may have had a reaction to a certain drug contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately and, if symptoms begin to worsen, you may need to contact emergency services, depending on the severity.

Once a drug allergy has been identified, always inform healthcare workers of this interaction and, if possible, wear a bracelet alerting people to your allergy.

 

For most allergies, the best way to prevent symptoms and an allergic response is to avoid the trigger substance if possible. In order to keep track of your allergies, we would recommend keeping a diary to log the severity of your responses and the reaction time.

If you have any questions about your allergy or how to reduce symptoms, call into one of our pharmacies or use our PharmaChat service to get in contact with a pharmacist.

 

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