What is an Allergy?
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What is an allergy? Allergies are your immune system's response to a normally harmless substance. Most common allergies include pollen, pets, and food. Learn more about how to spot an allergy.
Transcript: You-and 50 million of your fellow Americans-- may be familiar with allergy SYMPTOMS such as itchy eyes,...
You-and 50 million of your fellow Americans-- may be familiar with allergy SYMPTOMS such as itchy eyes, runny nose, scratcy throat. But what exactly ARE allergies? An allergy is an immune system reaction to a normally harmless substance, such as pollen, dust, pet dander, or a food protein. When this reaction happens, the immune system produces antibodies to the IRRITATING substances -know as ALLERGENS-and those antibodies trigger the release of histamines and other chemicals. It is those chemicals that are responsible for the symptoms of allergies. SOMETIMES the allergens cause symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat or sinuses. Or, allergens can affect the EARS, causing ear aches, THE SKIN, triggering hives or eczema, or the GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT, causing cramping or diarrhea. Allergic ASTHMA can also develop from exposure to allergens. And in the most severe cases, a person may have a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can cause difficulty breathing and low blood pressure. This may come from a bee sting, or a peanut allergy, for example, and these most severe allergic reactions are quite rare.According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the most common allergy triggers are: Pollen, Dust, Certain foods, Insect stings, Animal dander, Mold, Medications, and Latex.No one is sure what causes the immune system to over-react to normally harmless substances, but doctors do know that most people who are allergic develop the problem when they are 10 years of age, or younger. And allergies tend to run in families. If NEITHER parent is allergic, there's only a 15 percent chance their child will become allergic. But IF one parent is allergic, a child has a 30 percent chance of developing allergies. And if both parents have allergies, their child has a 60 percent of developing them. To find out more about allergies and how they can affect your body, check out other videos in this series.More »
Last Modified: 2014-01-02 | Tags »
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Allergies plague the rich and famous as often as anyone else. See which A-listers have to cope with uncomfortable symptoms, too.
Last Modified: 2012-04-18 | Tags »
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Airborne allergens like dust mites and pollen affect more than 35 million people throughout the US. Some symptoms include sneezing, coughing and postnasal drip. Find out more about airborne allergens in this video.
Transcript: From pollen to diesel fumes, the air we breathe is filled with potential allergy triggers that can irritate...
From pollen to diesel fumes, the air we breathe is filled with potential allergy triggers that can irritate the nose, throat, eyes and skin. POLLEN, the most common airborne allergen, is a fine, coarse powder responsible for plant reproduction. It is likely to set off allergy attacks from early spring through late fall. Symptoms include sneezing, itching, congestion and post-nasal drip. MOLD is another airborne allergen that causes many people a lot of discomfort. About 20 percent of people who suffer from airborne allergies are also affected by mold. Mold can grow in any damp environment, from a bathroom or basement or around a garden. Symptoms include itchy eyes and trouble breathing. DUST MITE droppings are a common airborne allergen found floating around your home. They are often a problem in pillows and bedding--anywhere that we shed skin cells. PETS also are a significant source of airborne allergens. Their irritating dander is mixture of small particles of fur and dandruff-like skin scales. Cat allergies, however, are caused by a protein in their saliva. Because cats are constantly licking themselves, saliva latches to their fur, which floats into the air and toward your nose and throat. Before you know it, your nose is runny and stuffy at the same time, while your throat and eyes become itchy. In addition to these "natural" allergens, many chemicals can cause allergies.Nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide found in smog and cigarette smoke, can cause nasal hyper-responsiveness resulting in extreme sensitivity. Diesel fumes can weaken the delicate nasal lining, allowing irritants to more easily trigger an attack. Even air conditioning, which is supposed to help clear the air, can produce allergy-laden residue that contains pollen along with a number of other allergens. To avoid airborne allergens as much as possible, keep pets out of the bedroom, get dust-mite protective mattress and pillow covers, wash your hair before going to bed to remove pollen that's accumulated during the day, and stay in filtered air indoors during high-pollen days. For more information on managing your allergies, watch the other videos in this series.More »
Last Modified: 2013-08-29 | Tags »
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It's not common to be allergic to medications, but there are some drugs that can trigger allergies. Watch this to see the most common drugs that can trigger allergies
Transcript: Drug allergies are NOT common, but they CAN trigger severe reactions and make it difficult for someone...
Drug allergies are NOT common, but they CAN trigger severe reactions and make it difficult for someone to receive medical treatment. Penicillin, sulfa drugs, and tetracycline are the antibiotics most likely to cause problems. In fact penicillin is the MOST common type of drug allergy and anaphylactic reactions to it cause 400 deaths a year in the U.S. alone. If you're in need of an antibiotic, work with your doctor to find one you can tolerate that WON'T cause an allergic reaction.The pain relievers acetaminophen, codeine, morphine, opium, ibuprofen and aspirin are also known to trigger allergic reactions. As are anti-seizure medications, such as phenytoin and carbamazepine. In some instances, however, it is the INACTIVE ingredients, such as dyes or binders, that trigger the allergy, not the drug itself. An allergic reaction to a drug does NOT usually occur the first time the drug is taken. That first dose introduces the drug to the body. At that point, in SOME PEOPLE, the immune system over-reacts and produces antibodies to the drug. Those antibodies will THEN set off an allergic reaction the NEXT time the body encounters the substance. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a drug may include stomach pains, cramps and bloating, hives, itchy eyes, congestion, and swelling in the mouth and throat. More severe drug allergies typically cause difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips, tongue and face, waves of dizziness, confusion, increased heart rate, nausea and diarrhea. These effects often appear within minutes of taking the medication. In some rare cases, a person develops what is called SERUM sickness. This is when the allergic reaction occurs up to a WEEK or more after the drug is taken. To find out if you have a drug allergy, your doctor may conduct skin tests. But skin tests don't always reveal drug allergies, or they may cause a serious attack themselves. As a precaution your doctor may weigh your past allergic reactions and simply steer you away from certain medications. As for treatment for any allergic reactions, antihistamines and corticosteroids can take care of any rash, hives, or itching. Bronchodilators may be prescribed to widen the airways if congestion and coughing are a problem. But for more serious reactions, you may have to rely on epinephrine, which comes in a single dose shot for self-injection. Some people with more serious allergies, especially to penicillin, do opt for DESENSITIZATION in which the body's sensitivity to allergens is DECREASED by periodic injections of the allergen, until there's a tolerance. If you are severely allergic to certain antibiotics though, there are alternative antibiotics your doctor can prescribe. To learn about other common allergies, check out more videos in this series.More »
Last Modified: 2013-06-07 | Tags »
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You can't be allergic to sex, but you can be allergic to things used during sex, such as latex. Watch this video if you think you are allergic to sex.
Transcript: It's not possible to ACTUALLY be allergic to sex, but you CAN react to products or secretions that come...
It's not possible to ACTUALLY be allergic to sex, but you CAN react to products or secretions that come into play DURING sex. If you're allergic to certain fragrances, chemicals and animal proteins, you may develop hives, rashes and blisters, if these exist in any lubricants or serums.The latex CONDOM is another potential allergy trigger, possibly causing hives, congestion, genital swelling and for some, anaphylaxis, or shock. Although a latex allergy affects less than 1 percent of the population, if you have it, there are latex alternatives such as polyisoprene or polyurethane condoms. Interestingly, foods such as avocados, bananas, chestnuts, kiwis and passion fruits also contain some of the SAME allergens found in latex. Traces of these food allergens can ALSO show up in your male partner's semen, which means if you are allergic to latex you may ALSO have a reaction to semen. There are also cases in which a woman has an allergic reaction to a man's semen itself. A study from the University of Cincinnati found that half of the women who had a semen allergy suffered from hay fever and skin allergies. To find out what exactly is causing your allergic reactions; doctors will recommend either a skin or blood test, focusing on latex and food allergies. If it turns out you're allergic to either, a medication may be prescribed.But if the allergy is actually to semen, you may need to try desensitization. This involves controlled exposure over the course of several weeks to hopefully help reset your immune response. For more information on diagnosing and treating allergies, check out other videos on this site.More »
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What is a fake allergy? It can look the same as a real allergy on the outside, but on the inside, your body is reacting differently. Learn what a fake allergy is and how to spot them.
Transcript: Just because you're experiencing a rash or shortness of breath, it doesn't mean you're having an allergic...
Just because you're experiencing a rash or shortness of breath, it doesn't mean you're having an allergic reaction. For a set of symptoms to indicate a TRUE allergy, they must be caused by an immune-system response to an allergen-think pollen or mold. That response produces ANTIBODIES to the allergen, and THAT, IN TURN causes the body to release histamine and other chemicals. It is those chemicals that cause allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose or hives. However, what I call "FAKE" allergies DO NOT TRIGGER the immune system's production of ANTIBODIES. So even if histamines are released, it is not a true ALLERGIC reaction. There are five common triggers of FAKE allergies.Number one is WATER Some people experience painful hives when water hits their skin. Or in even more rare cases, they experience swelling of the throat when they drink a glass of water. The explanation for this reaction is that water, especially FRESH water and some tap water, may contain CHEMICALS that cause skin irritation. But doctors have yet to pinpoint an exact cause since there are so many variables in the mix here. For now, all they can do is hypothesize that elevated histamine levels play a role, hence the inflammatory reactions.Fake Allergy #TWO--Alcohol. Symptoms similar to a food allergy - such as stomach pain, bloating, or cramping - can occur after drinking alcohol, but those symptoms are caused by what is called an INTOLERANCE reaction. The body cannot breakdown the alcohol due to a lack of a specific enzyme. This condition, which is fairly common among the Asian population, causes gastrointestinal symptoms, along with reddening of the skin, dizziness and increased body temperature. Faker #THREE is EXTREME temperatures. We're talking about anything below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Reactions have been known to show up after hot showers, a sauna, swims in cold water, and outdoor winter sports. In hypersensitive people, temperatures can trigger the release of histamines and that leads to itchy, red, swollen skin and welts. PRESSURE is number four. According to some experts, 5 percent of the population break out in hives and welts when pressure is applied on the skin, or they are grabbed too firmly, touched too hard, or even if they wear clothes that are too tight. Although the symptoms are similar to ALLERGIC skin reactions that are triggered by a hypersensitive immune system, there is no immune system involvement. Irritated skin cells release histamine in direct response to pressure and contact and that is responsible for the symptoms.And FIVE is exercise. For some people, exercise-induced reactions can cause itchy, painful hives and swelling of the neck, torso and extremities. Rarely, people may find that as their body temperature rises, they have bouts of vomiting, trouble breathing and increased blood pressure.Some may even experience anaphylaxis, a potential life-threatening reaction that causes difficulty breathing and shock. A person may find that exercise-induced anaphylaxis attacks are not consistently triggered by the same type or intensity of physical activity. There may be co-factors such as foods, alcohol, temperature, aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, humidity, seasonal changes, and hormonal changes. A distinct subset of exercise-induced anaphylaxis is called food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis. In this case, anaphylaxis develops only if physical activity occurs within a few hours of eating a specific food.To learn more about allergies, check out other videos on this site.More »
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Allergies and colds often have similar symptoms. Learn what they are so you can tell the difference.
Transcript: You're sniffing, red nosed, and miserable. Is it something you picked up from your sneezing office mate?...
You're sniffing, red nosed, and miserable. Is it something you picked up from your sneezing office mate? Or is it an allergy? Turns out it's pretty easy to tell the difference, once you know the signs. The common cold is caused by viral infections that target the upper-respiratory system. These viruses are contagious and cause sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, itchy throat, and severe congestion. The mucus produced by a cold is usually thick, and green or yellow in color. Also, colds can bring on a fever and muscle achiness, which are uncharacteristic symptoms of allergies. And a cold usually lasts from seven to ten days. Then it is gone.Allergies, on the other hand, are unique to each individual and are NOT contagious. Because the symptoms, which also include a runny nose, itchy eyes, and severe congestion, are caused by an allergen, there's no precise timetable for how long the symptoms will last and they can recur over and over. Also, allergies cause CLEAR, watery mucus. One last difference...allergy sufferers tend to sneeze more frequently and in a choppier fashion, than people with colds, who sneeze heavily in order to purge the body of accumulating, thick mucus. To learn more about allergies, watch the other videos in this series.More »
Last Modified: 2013-02-20 | Tags »
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There are many triggers that can cause adult onset allergies. Some believe that it is due to an underdeveloped immune system. Learn more about the increase in adult onset allergies
Transcript: You may have been able to avoid allergies for decades, when suddenly at age 20 or 30 or older, you develop...
You may have been able to avoid allergies for decades, when suddenly at age 20 or 30 or older, you develop them. It hardly seems fair, but according to research, adult onset allergies are increasingly common. But why? Research suggests that many adults actually had allergies as a child, but may never have known, or have forgotten about them. The allergies subsided as they grew up. But NOW, as people get older and their immune system WEAKENS, the allergies flare up again. For other adults, repeated exposure to allergens finally sensitizes their immune system. They develop an allergy to cats, for example, after having been a long-time cat-lover.Allergies can also develop if a WEAKENED immune system is exposed to allergens. This may occur after a viral infection or during pregnancy. In fact, it's pretty common for women to develop allergies after pregnancy.Then there's the HYGIENE hypothesis. This theory claims that our immune systems-these remarkable ENGINES designed to fend off assaults from germs-are underused these days. Due to an overuse of sanitizing agents, antibiotics, and a our highly germ-free environment, our immune systems don't come in contact with the disease-causing antigens that our forebears did. That causes our underused immune systems to turn on own bodies, creating allergies and autoimmune diseases. The immune system is acting like a bored adolescent, getting in trouble just because there doesn't seem to be anything else to do.Luckily, adult onset allergies-including allergic asthma--can be treated with antihistamines, antileukotrienes and nasal corticosteroid sprays. And immunotherapy with shots or sublingual drops can help reset the immune system so the allergic reaction is reduced or even prevented. Only a board certified allergist can determine what form of immunotherapy is best for you, depending on the type of allergies you might have as well as their severity.More »
Last Modified: 2013-08-29 | Tags »
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It is important to beware of poisonous plants, like poison ivy and oak. Not everyone reacts to them, but allergic reactions are common. Watch our video to know about effects and remedies.
Transcript: NOT everyone breaks into an itchy rash after walking through poison ivy or poison oak. But if you DO...
NOT everyone breaks into an itchy rash after walking through poison ivy or poison oak. But if you DO react to these plants, it means you're ALLERGIC to them. And that's the case for almost 85 percent of us. The itchy, red rash and blisters you get from touching these plants are caused by an allergy to the OILS in the plants. Once the skin makes contact, it USUALLY takes from 8 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear, and in some cases it can take up to two weeks. However, someone who is highly sensitive to the toxins may develop symptoms in as few as two hours. If poison ivy is INGESTED, the mucus lining of the mouth and digestive tract can be damaged, while the smooth tissues swell and blister. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea will also occur.A severe, but rare, allergic reaction--anaphylaxis - is also possible and requires IMMEDIATE medical care. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction can include difficulty breathing and swelling of the throat and face. Most people, however, do not experience this type of sever reaction.Without treatment, the garden variety rash usually lasts about 10 days to 3 weeks. But washing the affected area immediately can reduce the effects.And over-the-counter antihistamines, calamine lotion and oatmeal baths can ease the itching, while a cool compress will help constrict the blood vessels and reduce the fluid in blisters. Persistent cases may require prescription corticosteroid pills, creams, ointments, or even shots.The good news? The rash ISN'T contagious, so you can't spread it from person to person. Even the fluid-filled blisters don't contain any leftover plant oil.However, the oil CAN remain active when lingering on hands, clothing, tools, and other objects, including dead vines and plants, so be sure to wash thoroughly to remove residue.And a little known fact; people who have poison ivy, oak and sumac allergies also tend to be allergic to mango SKIN, since it contains some of the same compound that is found in those plants. To learn how to prevent and treat other common allergies, check out more videos in this series.More »
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What is an allergist? Allergists are doctors specifically trained in diagnosing and treating allergies and allergic reactions. Watch our video to learn when to consult one.
Transcript: You have a primary care physician, a dentist, a dermatologist, and if you're a woman, a gynecologist....
You have a primary care physician, a dentist, a dermatologist, and if you're a woman, a gynecologist. But if you suspect that your chronically runny nose and sore throat are symptoms of an allergy, you need to see an ALLERGIST. Allergists are medical doctors who are trained to diagnose and treat allergies, asthma and immunologic disorders. They have completed medical school, a three-year residency and two or three years of study in allergy and immunology. You can be certain that your doctor has had this training if he or she is certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. To find a good allergist, ask your primary care doctor for a referral and talk to friends, who can tell you about their first-hand experience with various physicians. And whatever you do, don't hesitate to make an appointment with an allergist if your allergies are interfering with your quality of life or if over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants aren't managing the symptoms. Chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, rashes, hives and even severe asthma attacks can be treated or even prevented once your allergy has been correctly diagnosed. To learn more about common allergy symptoms and treatments, checkout other videos on this site.More »
Last Modified: 2013-05-21 | Tags »
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Medical experts believe that allergies and genetics go hand in hand. If parents suffer from an allergy, there is a chance of that being passed down. Watch this video for more.
Transcript: Allergies, like many disorders that involve the immune system, seem to run in families. In fact, if both...
Allergies, like many disorders that involve the immune system, seem to run in families. In fact, if both parents have seasonal allergies, 75 percent of the time their children will also develop allergies. If ONE parent is allergic, or if relatives on one side of the family have allergies, then the child has about a 50 percent chance of developing allergies.But that doesn't mean allergies are inevitable. Research has found that even among identical twins, if one twin has a peanut allergy, almost a third of the siblings will NOT have that allergy. Clearly it takes some kind of environmental trigger to turn a genetic PREDISPOSITION into a diagnosis of allergy.Those environmental triggers are very hard to identify and highly individual. For one child -or adult-it may be a one time exposure to a certain type of mold, or to a bee sting that sets of an allergy. For another it may happen following a viral infection that weakens the immune system. Without the infection-and then exposure to, say, pollen, no allergy would have developed.So can you do anything to keep a genetic predisposition from making you or your child an inevitable allergy sufferer? Turns out kids who go to day care are less likely to develop allergies, as are children who have older siblings. The reason may be that they are exposed to more germs earlier in life and their immune system is occupied with protecting them from real threats, and doesn't mistakenly identify normally harmless substances like pollen as a threat. As an adult you may not be able to do anything to prevent an allergy from developing, but you can get fast and effective treatment so you don't have to suffer. If you think you may be allergic, contact an allergist for testing and discuss a treatment plan that will ease you symptoms. You may even opt for immunotherapy- or ALLERGY SHOTS-- that can reduce and almost eliminate allergies for many people.More »
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People often confuse the difference between food allergies and food intolerance. Both are similar yet have different affects on the body. Watch this video on food allergy vs food intolerance.
Transcript: There is a lot of confusion between food allergies and food intolerance. That's because people who have...
There is a lot of confusion between food allergies and food intolerance. That's because people who have an intolerance for milk-or specifically lactose in milk--for example, may have many of the same outward symptoms as someone who is allergic to milk. But they are distinctly different conditions. A food allergy is caused by an immune system over-reaction to a normally harmless substances such as pollen or milk. Food allergies affect about 5 percent of children and 4 percent of teens and adults.A food intolerance is a gastrointestinal reaction to something in the food that irritates the digestive system OR a food that cannot be digested because the digestive system lacks the necessary enzymes or other chemicals to properly break down the food. Many more people have food intolerances. Lactose intolerance is the most common, affecting about 10 percent of all Americans.Symptoms of a food allergy may include: Rash or hives, Nausea, Stomach pain, Diarrhea, Itchy skin, Shortness of breath, Chest pain, Swelling of the airways, Anaphylaxis-or shock. Symptoms of a food intolerance may include:Nausea, Stomach pain, Gas, cramps, or bloating,Vomiting, Heartburn, Diarrhea, Headaches. If you find that you get an upset stomach and other symptoms after eating, you should talk with your doctor and see an allergist to determine if you have an intolerance or an allergy. Avoiding the food is of course the most effective solution, but that can be difficult some times. And since food allergies can trigger life-threatening anaphylactic reactions that cause difficulty breathing and low blood pressure, you need to know your risks-and be prepared by always carrying an Epi-pen. An Epi-pen is a single shot of the adrenal hormone epinephrine and it stops the most dangerous symptoms until you can get medical attention. For more information on allergic reaction sand treatments, watch the other videos in this series.More »
Last Modified: 2013-08-08 | Tags »
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