It's spring again in Western countries and pollen in the air is causing much "Achoos" and "Hachings" to people. Pollen, dust mites, animal dander, molds, insects, food, sweat, latex, medications, even change of climate--all these cause allergies.
This photo from Wikipedia owned and originallylicensed to Wolfgang Ihloff
Allergy is a disorder of the immune system; allergic reactions occur when someone is exposed to certain 'allergens' contained in many of the above-mentioned items. The most common allergic reactions are eczema, hives, rhinitis, hay fever, asthma attacks, food allergies, and reactions to certain venom to stinging insects like wasps and bees. Symptoms may vary depending on the allergen. For pollen and other airborne allergens, sneezing, runny nose, itchiness and rubbing of the nose, runny and red eyes, and sometimes difficulty in breathing are the common symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis. Asthma may be due to the same allergens but could also be brought about by reaction from animal furs or dander, from hot weather and poor resistance to infections. It results in the inflammation and spasms of the lung's air passages. The symptoms are shortness of breath, wheezing sound, coughing and chest tightness. For food and insect allergies and contact with the skin, there are usually rashes, swelling, inflammation and redness of the affected parts. There is also a life-threatening allergic reaction which they call "anaphylactic reaction or shock" which is the more severe kind and that which we should immediately bring to the Emergency Room of a hospital. Allergies are usually treated with anti-histamines and steroids.
I've known the difficulty of having a family member at home with allergies. I had asthma attacks when I was 7 years old which were so serious; my parents would always bring me to the hospital. The nebulizer or bronchodilator was probably not yet invented then. Good thing it stopped when I had my puberty and at that time we didn't have any more animals in our home; this is why I can't be near cats or dogs. My daughter had skin asthma and we had to take her to an immunologist. A skin testing was done and she underwent immunotherapy for some of her allergens to 'desensitize' her from them. However, even today she's still allergic to seafood except fish. When my cousin was about 11 years old, I saw his face puff up after eating pineapple and he was immediately brought to the hospital.
And so, what could we do to prevent these allergic reactions from happening to our children or members of our family? We can never know which food or medicine or any item we'd be allergic to until we try them. So if rashes appear, we need to consult a doctor and not self-medicate because steroids need to be monitored when administered. If you have allergic rhinitis, you must avoid going to gardens with flowers and pollen or avoid going to cities with much air pollution. Also, we could keep our houses clean to prevent airborne allergens. Stop smoking and don't smoke near your children even if they don't have allergies. If your children are allergic to certain food, always pack their lunches and snacks so they won't have to buy food for themselves. And finally, always carry with you anti-histamine medication if you know you or your children have allergies. My daughter does.