Help with Allergies

What is an allergy?

An allergy is an abnormal reaction by the body to a substance. While the reaction is often adverse, it can vary from being mild and intermittent to deadly. Each year in the UK the number of people with allergies rises, although it is unclear whether this reflects a higher number of sufferers or a greater awareness of the condition. Around one in four people now have an allergy.

The reason for allergies remains unclear. However, suspected reasons include pollution and living in a cleaner, germ-free environment which has weakened the immune system. Such theories are unproven as studies have been inconclusive.

Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of an allergy develop over time and are unlikely to occur the first time a person comes into contact with the allergen. The body becomes more sensitive to the trigger over time.

Different allergens produce different symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include sneezing, sinus pain, a runny nose, coughing, rashes, swelling and itchy eyes. There are a number of antihistamines on the market to counter the symptoms of allergies, which vary in their effectiveness.

However, for more serious complaints a GP will need to prescribe medication.

Common Alergies

One of the most common allergies in the UK is hay fever. It affects 20 per cent of people during the spring and summer months, when airborne substances from plants such as grass or hay irritate the respiratory passages. People with a history of hay fever in their family are more likely to develop the condition, which normally begins in early teens and peaks in a sufferer's 20s. People become less sensitive to pollen in their mid-40s.

Other common allergies include a bodily aversion to animal hair, which can cause an irritation of the eyes and respiratory passages. Nut allergies are also increasing common. However, this type of condition can be serious, with sufferers who eat nut products sometimes dying. GPs can offer those with a nut allergy medication to take if they accidentally eat a nut which keeps the reaction under control. However, the more a sufferer continues to eat nuts the worse their condition will become.

Skin irritations such as eczema are also common, with one in five children suffering from the condition. The cause of the allergy is unknown but it is often inherited. Eczema is treated with soothing creams which help calm the flaky and rash-like affected areas of skin.

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