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Be Allergy Alert!

What You Ought To Know

Expert answers to the 10 most common questions about allergies

 

Question 1

What is an allergy?

It is a super-sensitivity to a substance that is not harmful to most other people.  These substances are called allergy triggers or allergens.

 

Question 2

What are some typical allergy triggers?

Pollen, dust mites, mold, strong chemical fumes and odors (including perfumes, fragrances in household cleaners and detergents), smoke and air pollution, pet dander.  Some people also have food allergies.

 

Question 3

How common are allergies?

Very.  As many as 50 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis, the most common allergy illness.  Almost half of allergy sufferers, about 25 million people, have symptoms at least 4 months of the year.  Of these, about 10 million have symptoms 9 months of the year.

More children than ever before have allergies.  In fact, children miss 2 million school days a year because of allergies and almost one of every three of their healthcare office visits are for  treatment of allergy symptoms.

 

Question 4

What are the symptoms of allergy?

The typical allergy symptoms are sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, watery eyes, a dry cough, and itching.  Some people with allergies also suffer from sleep disturbances, upset stomachs, rashes, hives, and other problems.

 

Question 5

Are allergies more of a problem in the spring or are they a problem all year long?

Folk wisdom says that allergies are seasonal.  That's why allergic rhinitis, the most common allergy illness, is called "hay fever."  But folk wisdom is wrong.

A person with allergies can have symptoms all year long in reaction to dust mites, dander, and other allergy triggers.  Allergy symptoms can get much worse as pollen levels rise during the spring when the trees and flowers are beginning to bloom, in the summer when the grass and weeds grow rapidly, and in the fall when dry leaves are on the ground.  The mold that grows on wet leaves also makes allergy symptoms worse during the fall.

 

Question 6

What causes the body to have an allergic reaction?

No one is certain why one person will have an allergic reaction to something and another person won't.  What we do know is that the allergic reaction begins when the body's immune system goes to work to protect itself from something that it believes is harmful.

Allergy triggers cause the body to produce protective antibodies as a defense against further exposure.  Allergic symptoms are caused by the antibodies.  For example, antibodies in the nose will cause a stuffed or runny nose as a defense to protect the body against further exposure to an allergy trigger, such as pollen or mold or smoke.

 

Question 7

Are you born with allergies?  Or do they develop over time?

Some infants are born with allergies, often to food or ingredients.  A pediatrician watches for such allergies and provides parents with detailed information for managing them.  It is not uncommon for children to "outgrow" allergies but each case is unique.  So if your child has allergies, follow your doctor's advice.

Most adult allergies seem to develop over time.  No one is certain why a person will not be allergic to something and then begins to have an allergic reaction to it.  That's why it makes sense to BE ALLERGY ALERT! so you can recognize symptoms and get medical help for allergies when you need it.

 

Question 8

Do allergies run in families?

There seems to be some connection.  Often several people in the same family will have allergies but sometimes only one member is affected.  Once again, it's smart to BE ALLERGY ALERT! and learn how to recognize allergy symptoms.

 

Question 9

Are allergies really serious or just an inconvenience?

Allergies are nothing to sneeze at!  Allergic rhinitis can be associated with more serious disease.  For example, 58 percent of all adult asthma patients also have allergic rhinitis.

 

Question 10

Can anything be done to reduce or prevent allergies?

Yes.  Since allergies develop in response to allergy triggers, the best way to help reduce or prevent allergies is to get rid of as many allergy triggers as possible, at work as well as at home.

  •  
Make your environments NO SMOKING zones.
  •  
Remove dust collectors such as plants or dried flowers; venetian blinds, draperies, and heavy window coverings; figurines, trophies, and other collectibles.  Display items in a case so you can still enjoy them as you reduce your exposure to allergy triggers.
  •  
Dust and vacuum often to get rid of dust mites.
  •  
Clean tile, ceramic, and vinyl surfaces often to prevent mold.
  •  
Get rid of plants that may have mold in the soil or on the pots.
  •  
Avoid pollen by keeping windows closed during high-pollen seasons.
  •  
Keep pets off furniture and definitely out of bedrooms; ideally, keep pets out of the house or only in selected rooms.

 

The BE ALLERGY ALERT! Program

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