Allergic reactions consist of the perception that the organism has as harmful of a substance that is not (allergen). Contact with said substance triggers an exaggerated immune response that manifests itself in different organs of the body.
According to experts, the most frequent allergens are: pollens, dust mites, animal epithelium, latex (or natural rubber, which is present in rubber gloves, probes, catheters, balloons, pacifiers, baby bottle nipples, etc.), wasp stings, certain foods, and some medications.
The allergen can come into contact with the body in different ways: inhaled through the nose or mouth, ingested (food or certain drugs), injected (drugs or insect bites) or by contact with the skin, causing dermatitis on first contact.
Currently, it is shown that Immunotherapy prevents the allergy from getting worse and going from a simple rhinitis to developing asthma. Similarly, vaccines have evolved a lot in recent years: administration guidelines are faster and the allergenic extracts used are better standardized.
What are the symptoms of allergies?
First of all, allergies can cause rhinitis or rhinoconjunctivitis, this is manifested by itchy nose and eyes, runny nose, sneezing, stuffy nose, etc.
Second, bronchial asthma. It should not be forgotten that 80% of all asthmatics are allergic.
Asthma can initially manifest with a dry cough, mainly triggered by exercise, laughter, or tobacco smoke. Subsequently, there is difficulty breathing, chest noises (whistles or whistles), a feeling of oppression in the chest. It can also manifest only when making efforts, for example climbing stairs, which forces the person to stop due to lack of air.
The most common symptoms are:
- Nasal congestion
- Rhinorrhea (increased nasal mucus)
- Tearing and redness of the eyes
- Dry cough
- wheezing in the chest when breathing
- respiratory distress
How are allergies diagnosed?
Scientifically, allergies are diagnosed through a skin test in order to reproduce on the skin the reaction that occurs in other parts of the body.
The test consists of apply drops containing the allergen to which the person may be sensitive to the arm. With a minimal lancet, the skin is pierced and the drops with the allergen are introduced. Subsequently, the reaction is observed after 15 or 20 minutes.
In addition, it is possible to perform blood tests, which can more accurately quantify and demonstrate the presence of specific antibodies.
In the case of food or medication, it is sometimes necessary to perform a challenge test, Observing under medical control the reaction after ingestion.
To diagnose bronchial asthma, respiratory function tests must be performed.
How are allergies treated?
In the first instance, there is the possibility of avoiding contact with the allergen. For which there are specific recommendations, depending on the substance or food to which the person is allergic.
Secondly, there is medication that is very effective in treating symptoms, such as antihistamines, which can be obtained in eye drops and nasal drops; topical corticosteroids, inhaled through the mouth or nose, which, unlike corticosteroids taken by mouth, are barely reabsorbed by the body and therefore lack systemic effects; and other drugs.
It is important to know that all these treatments improve and control the symptoms but do not cure the allergy.
Today there is only one treatment that can induce tolerance to the allergen: it is immunotherapy (vaccines).
Immunotherapy for allergies
Immunotherapy consists of repeated injections of minimal doses of the allergen over a period of 3 to 5 years.
After that time, the vaccine achieves in a high percentage of people that the body stops recognizing that substance as harmful and, therefore, the allergic reaction does not occur.
Immunotherapy is effective for the treatment of people allergic to wasp stings. In addition, they are beneficial against pollens, mites and animal epithelia.
It should be remembered that due to the risk of producing allergic-type reactions, which is less than 5%, immunotherapies or vaccines are administered in Immunotherapy Units, made up of medical and nursing staff who have sufficient experience in managing these treatments.