Signs you may have an allergy
It’s thought that 1 in 4 people in the UK to suffer from some form of allergy.
Some of the most common examples include hayfever (pollen allergy), insect sting allergies, nut allergies, dust mite allergies and animal hair allergies.
An allergy occurs when the immune system mistakes a food or substance as harmful. This triggers chemicals known as histamines which attempt to get rid of the food or substance from the body. Depending on the way in which the body is exposed to this allergen, the symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary.
Many people don’t realise that they have an allergy at first and may mistake symptoms for other health problems (many people initially mistake hayfever for a cold and pet allergies as chest infections). To help you determine whether you have an allergy, here are some of the tell-tale signs to look out for and how to ease these symptoms.
Most allergic reactions result in some form of itchiness. This could be an itchy nose and itchy eyes in the case of hayfever, an itchy throat in the case of a pet allergy, an itchy mouth in the case of a food allergy and itchy skin in the case of dust mite allergies.
These are the most mild symptoms of an allergy and can often be relieved easily by using over the counter antihistamines. There are also nasal sprays, eyedrops and creams for specific areas that you can use to relieve itching.
It’s important to resist scratching the area as it could cause further irritation. For instance, some people can develop rashes and scars from scratching itchy skin.
Certain allergies like hayfever, pet allergies, mould allergies and dust allergies may cause allergic rhinitis – which can result in a stuffy nose and sneezing. The sneezing may come on suddenly and won’t be accompanied by a fever or sore throat, which can help you to determine it from a cold.
Antihistamines can usually be enough to relieve this symptom. That said, some people may require more heavy medication such as a prescribed nasal spray. There are also tissues you can buy that ease symptoms.
If sneezing becomes persistent and is left untreated, it could lead to further complications such as nasal polyps or sinusitis. You should see a doctor is sneezing is interrupting your sleep.
Some allergies can cause hives to form on the skin. These are red raised lumps that can be itchy and painful. Hives often appear when there is skin contact with an allergen – dust, pollen, certain metal jewellery, certain make-up, latex or chlorine could be a trigger.
Hives may clear up on their own or may be possible to clear up with antihistamines. However, some people require topical creams to ease symptoms, which may need to be prescribed by a doctor in serious cases.
Once you work out the allergen, you should avoid contact. For the likes of dust allergies, hypoallergenic bedding may be worth buying. There are also brands of hypoallergenic makeup for those that get hives when wearing makeup.
Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea can all be symptoms of a food allergy. A few common food allergies include milk, nuts, fish, soy, eggs and wheat.
Antihistamines may be able to ease symptoms in some cases. Drinking herbal teas like ginger tea is also known to help ease stomach cramps.
Allergies tend to be different to intolerances as they tend to display other symptoms like itchiness, sneezing, hives or breathing difficulty on top of an upset stomach. Intolerances tend to result in bloating and headaches that are not associated with allergies – antihistamines will never work in these cases.
Once a food is identified it is best avoided to prevent future reactions. Nowadays, there are many options to cater for those with allergies such as dairy-free foods and gluten-free foods.
An allergy may result in swelling around the face. In the case of food allergies, swollen lips or a swollen tongue may be symptoms. In the case of pet allergies, the eyes may swell up.
Antihistamines can reduce swelling, but for serious cases corticosteroid creams may be required. A cold compress may also be able to ease swelling.
The trigger should be avoided at all costs if this is a symptom. Swelling can be a sign of a more serious allergy and can be dangerous around the mouth if it affects swallowing or breathing.
Breathing difficulties can be a more dangerous allergy symptom to look out for. This could range from mild wheezing to severe breathing difficulties. This is a sign that you have allergy-induced asthma – this can occur as a result of a pet allergy, food allergy or dust mite allergy.
You will need more than antihistamines when dealing with this reaction – it is recommended that you see a doctor and are prescribed an inhaler. You can find guides online on how to use your asthma inhaler. An inhaler should provide instant relief unless you are having a particularly serious reaction.
This is the most serious allergic reaction and can result in all the above symptoms as well as paralysis, loss of consciousness, cardiovascular collapse and even death if not immediately treated. Peanuts and bee stings are some of the most common allergies that can result in anaphylaxis.
If this symptom occurs, emergency treatment is often required – someone should call an ambulance immediately. People that suffer these symptoms often have to carry an EpiPen to provide allergy relief, which a doctor should be able to prescribe to you if you have had a reaction in the past.