Allergy Basics

Did you know that one out of three people suffer from allergies? That's a lot of people. You may be one of us. If you are, then you are all too familiar with the symptoms associated with an allergic reaction. The awfulness of itchy eyes, runny nose, rashes and hives, sinus pressure headaches, upset stomach...well, I don't need to tell you. You know how it is.

You would think that with all the advancements in technology and medicine, that there would be a permanent cure for allergies, but there isn't. Not yet, at least. But the more we learn and know about allergies - the causes, the symptoms, etc - the better equipped we are with dealing with the suffering and misery that come hand in hand with allergies.

There are a number of ways that you can improve the quality of your life even as an allergy sufferer and we cover them in this article. We'll talk about practical tips on allergen avoidance, some medical options, and jewelry options.

Define Me

An allergy is what you have to something when your immune system identifies it as a threat to your health. It could be anything - and most of the time these allergens are harmless to other people. Because your immune system is hypersensitive to the allergen, it sends a signal to attack and eliminate the invader from your body.

This signal triggers a series of reactions; one of which is the release of histamine. This release is what makes our eyes water, our noses drip, etc. It's our body's way of getting rid of the allergen. Unfortunately, it doesn't look glamorous, and quite frankly, most of the time, these symptoms make us feel uncomfortable. And it happens every single time we are exposed to the same allergen.

How Does it Feel? Common Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

Different people have varying degrees of reaction to a particular antigen. Some people have severe reactions, others mild or moderate. Here's a list of common symptoms:

Mild: sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, watery eyes, runny nose, itchy body

Moderate: wheezing, mild rash, few hives, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea

Severe or Anaphylaxis: hives all over body, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, confusion, dizziness, loss of consciousness, swelling of lips or throat

Most people experience mild to moderate allergic reactions. If you or someone you know has an extreme reaction to an allergen, it is very, very important to find medical attention immediately.

Why Me?

One thing we do know about allergies is that they are passed down from our parents and ancestors. If you have an allergy to peanuts, for instance, your children will be more likely to have a reaction as well. It's not a guarantee - just a bigger chance.

That's not to say that you can't develop an allergic reaction to something on your own, because you can. For instance, as a child, you might have been able to wear gold jewelry. But as an adult the metal makes you break out in a rash.

The opposite holds true as well. For instance, as a child, you could have been allergic to strawberries, but as an adult you can eat them by the pound.

Yes, it's all very puzzling - but true.

More interesting facts about allergies include the following: Young boys are more likely to suffer from allergies than girls. Asthma is more common in young adult females. Allergy sufferers are more common in developed nations and cities - basically industrialized areas - than the more remote, rural areas.

Another interesting fact is that children in large families are less likely to suffer from hay fever and eczema. The hygiene hypothesis states that children in large families are exposed to many infections early on in life, thus causing their immune systems to stay quite busy. Children in small families (1-2 children) are not exposed to as many, thus making it more likely for their immune systems to become hypersensitive. Fascinating, isn't it?

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