The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Allergy season hits eyes, nose, throat

By Thenisha Smith/reporter

Your eyes itch, your nose runs, your throat is scratchy, you’re sneezing and covered in hives. Is it a cold … the flu?

No, it’s spring, which means your allergies are in full bloom. Don’t worry. You’re not alone; two out of 10 people have allergies.

An allergy is the immune system’s exaggerated reaction to a normally harmless substance that it mistakes as a threat to the body.

“ The immune system fights off bacterial infection and other harmful germs to keep the body health,” stated Pat Marling, R.N. and coordinator of health services for the NE Campus, said.

When an unknown substance enters the body, Marling said, the immune system works to determine if the substance is dangerous.

“ The substances that are mistaken as a threat and trigger allergic responses are called allergens,” she said.

A person without allergies would have no reaction to the substance, but when an allergic person encounters the trigger, the mistaken identification jump starts a series of events that result in an allergic reaction and those uncomfortable allergy symptoms.

This series of events, an allergic cascade, has three basic phases.

In the first phase, the body encounters the substance for the first time, labels it a threat and produces antibodies that will recognize the allergen on subsequent encounters. This phase makes the person sensitized to the allergen.

In the second phase, the body encounters the allergen again and the body reacts by releasing chemicals, histamines. Once the histamines are released into the blood stream, allergy symptoms appear. The localized symptoms affect only the area where these chemicals were first released. Systemic allergy symptoms affect the entire body.

Allergens inhaled from the air cause allergic reactions in the eyes, nose and lungs, Marling said.

“ Allergens that are inhaled are the most common allergens,” she said.

Allergic reactions that occur in the mouth, stomach and intestines are the result of allergens that are ingested. Itching, swelling, hives, redness and rashes are the result of allergen contact with skin or mucous membranes.

Allergies are classified by where they are found or what they are. Pollen and plants are outside allergies while dust, molds and dander are forms of indoor allergies. Foods such as eggs, milk, and peanuts may cause allergies.

“ Few people have food allergies but these can be the most severe allergies,” Marling said.

Latex and cosmetics are chemicals that people become allergic to. Insect stings are also common allergies.

Allergies are diagnosed by an allergy skin test, also called a prick test. To determine if the substance causes allergy symptoms, the skin is pricked with an extract of that substance and the reaction is evaluated. If the skin test cannot be performed, a radioallergosorbent blood test may be taken. The RAST, while not as accurate as the skin test, evaluates the number of antibodies produced by the immune system; elevated levels of certain antibodies can identify certain allergies.

“ Avoidance, completely avoiding the allergen, is the best way to treat allergies,” Marling said.

The majority of allergy treatments are designed to ease the symptoms that have already begun.

Antihistamine, which interferes with the release of histamines, is one medicine used to treat allergies. Decongestants are used to reduce congestion and prevent fluid and mucus from forming.

Corticosteroids reduce the inflammation associated with the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Immunotherapy may be used to help a person overcome sensitivity to a certain allergen. Homeopathy, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicines are forms of alternative allergy treatments.

Internet: www.ivillage.com

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