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A detailed breakdown of all the different kinds of allergies, how to spot them, how to separate them. And, most importantly, how to tell if you're having a reaction.

Allergies are the body’s extreme reactions to something detected as being a threat. In severe cases, allergies can lead to anaphylactic shock, which is the most severe reaction. Without the proper medical measures, anaphylactic shock can lead to death. The good news is, once a doctor has determined the causes of a person’s allergies, they can be prevented by simply avoiding the allergen itself. 

Types of Allergies

Allergies can be classified depending on their trigger. They generally fall into five main categories:

  • Drug
  • Insect sting
  • Respiratory 
  • Skin 
  • Food 

Drug allergies

There are cases where the body can have a negative reaction to a specific type of medication. A person experiencing a drug allergy will most likely get a rash, hive, or fever, but there are cases when this can turn into a life-threatening condition. There is a major difference between the side effects produced by a drug, and an allergic reaction to it.  

When the allergy symptoms get worse and the person goes into anaphylactic shock, they can experience shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, loss of consciousness, abdominal cramps, or even a seizure. 

While there are a lot of drugs that can trigger an allergic reaction, some of them are more likely to do so, such as antibiotics (like penicillin), painkillers (ibuprofen, Aspirin aka acetylsalicylic acid etc.), cancer treatment drugs, or meds used to treat autoimmune diseases

Treatment for drug-related allergies can take two different approaches. As always, the doctor is the one to decide what the best approach is. When the drug that triggers the allergy has been identified, whatever treatment that includes this drug is interrupted. Another approach that doctors take is prescribing antihistamines to block of the chemicals released by the body during an allergic reaction. In the case of an anaphylactic shock, an epi shot is required, together with adequate hospitalization to closely examine the reactions of the patient. 

Insect-sting allergies

Another common type of allergy is when the body reacts to an insect sting. The symptoms vary from one person to another, but they typically involve local or extended swelling in the stung area. This swelling is accompanied by pain and discomfort, so treatment with corticosteroids and antihistamines may be required. Take into account that the reactions to an insect sting may only fade after two or three days. 

It’s important to determine the insect that caused the allergy because some insects (such as wasps, fire ants or hornets) can sting repeatedly. Consequently, stingers may have to be removed from the skin, by either scraping or pulling motion, depending on what is best to prevent injecting more venom into the body. 

Treatment for insect-sting allergies is a two-step process, which involved treating the allergy symptoms themselves, as well as venom immunotherapy. This is a long-term form of treatment that can prevent future allergic reactions in such scenarios. Basically, this immunotherapy implies subjecting the patient to gradually-increasing doses of venom, to increase the body’s resistance to its effects. 

Food allergies

Food is, by far, the broadest trigger for allergies, and the most complex one to examine. Food allergies are very common among children, but also adults who consume allergens that are perceived as being dangerous by the body. 

It’s important to note the difference between intolerance to certain types of food and an actual allergy. Food intolerance is a less serious condition, which doesn’t involve a person’s immune system. There isn’t a cure for food allergies, although there are children that manage to outgrow this problem. 

Some of the common symptoms of a food allergy are abdominal (pains, cramps, etc.), imply swelling of different body parts, cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and more. 

A test that can confirm a food allergy 100 percent has yet to be created, so the doctor will use every bit of available information to determine if a person has a food allergy or not. This process implies a series of questions about family history of allergies, skin and blood tests and an elimination diet. 

Consequently, the treatment will vary depending on the severity of the reaction. For minor reactions, doctors generally prescribe antihistamines to alleviate symptoms. For major allergic reactions, it’s important to have emergency epinephrine shot at hand at all times.

Skin allergies

Skin allergies are also classified into different subcategories, the most common ones being hives, eczema, and dermatographia. Naturally, each particular type of skin allergy has a different treatment. For example, eczema is a skin condition that becomes visible when the skin isn’t moist enough. Consequently, there will be visible rashes, red spots on the skin. It can also become scaly, cracked, and very dry.

The adequate treatment for eczema requires moisturizing the skin on a constant basis, while avoiding scratching the affected areas. A dermatologist can best determine what kind of moisturizer is required, but the most common ones are cortisone, steroid, and topical creams. 

Respiratory allergies

There are several respiratory condition ties to these allergies, from asthma to allergic rhinitis. The symptoms are varied, but often include nasal congestion, itchiness, nasal discharge, and sneezing. Respiratory allergies are triggered when the body inhales a certain substance that causes an extreme reaction. 

As always, the best way to treat respiratory allergies is to avoid the trigger as much as possible. When exposed to an environment with a lot of potential triggers (such as dust, mold, pollen, smoke, etc.), it’s best to wear a mask, to avoid inhaling these toxic contaminants. 

A doctor can recommend a good treatment, depending on a person’s specific type of respiratory allergy. These treatments vary from antihistamine and decongestant administration to inhaling steroids. In some cases, doctors can even suggest immunotherapy, in the form of tablet administration or allergy shots. 

Conclusion

People who suspect an allergic reaction to any of the triggers described above, should never hesitate in consulting a doctor. While some allergies have long-term treatments, others have yet to be associated with a cure, which means that it’s important to steer clear of allergens and always have emergency medication at hand.

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