Common allergies - what you need to know
Allergies range from the mildly annoying to the downright dangerous and, according to Allergy UK, cases are on the rise around the world. In the UK alone, it is estimated that up to 40 per cent of children are diagnosed with an allergic condition.
If you think you may be suffering from an allergy, whether airborne or food-related, here are some of the most common types, symptoms to look out for and what you can do to relieve the discomfort.
The NHS reports that up to one-in-five people will suffer with hayfever at some point in their life. Caused by plant pollen from trees, grass or weeds, the symptoms include sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose.
Though it won't seriously affect your health, it can be unpleasant for the sufferer but there are plenty of ways to relieve the symptoms. Over-the-counter antihistamines work wonders for the majority but in severe cases, a GP can often prescribe medication.
Of course, avoiding the outdoors when the pollen count is particularly high, wearing wrap around sunglasses when you are outside and changing your clothes and showering when you return home can help to reduce the symptoms.
According to Allergy UK, recent studies have shown that the rate of peanut allergy both in Europe and in the United States has doubled over the last five years. It commonly appears in young children but only 20% will grow out of it.
Some find their reaction to peanuts or other tree nuts causes hives, eczema and vomiting but the unlucky ones can suffer the anaphylaxis, a severe reaction which causes difficulty breathing and a sharp and sudden drop in blood pressure. It can be life-threatening and requires an immediate 999 call.
With this in mind, if you suspect either you or your child may have a nut allergy, it is essential to visit your GP. Nut allergies can usually be diagnosed with blood tests or skin prick tests. Thereafter it's a case of avoiding the offending nut and all packaged foods should be labelled to warn those with allergies of impending danger.
These tiny offenders are present in the house, living happily on our dead skin in bedding, carpets, soft furnishings and clothing, and commonly cause allergic reactions such as asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis, which irritates the eyes, nose and throat.
In fact, it is not the mite itself that causes the problem but the proteins in their droppings. Though there is no cure, keeping the allergens under control may make a significant difference to symptoms.
Breathable but allergen-proof barriers are available for mattresses, duvets and pillows, but regular washing of all bedding and other soft furnishings at a high temperature will kill the critters. Swapping carpets for hard floors undoubtedly helps too but if that's not an option, consistent and regular cleaning with a high-filtration vacuum is the answer.
Around one in 50 young children are affected by an allergy to cows' milk, posing problems for many a parent. Since cows' milk is nutrient-packed, it's important to take your child to see a health professional about any possible allergic reaction in order to ensure that the little one is getting all the proteins, minerals and vitamins they would normally get from the white stuff.
Symptoms include skin rashes, swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, face or throat, tummy pain, diarrhoea, win or vomiting, and in some cases, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Of course, these days there are plenty of alternatives to cows' milk - goats' milk and soya milk, for example - but if your child is diagnosed with a milk allergy, it's essential that you can recognise the ingredients that might cause a problem. Casein, whey and lactose are just a few of the ingredients that might cause an unsuspecting sufferer a problem.
Being stung by a wasp or bee is never a pleasant experience but for those who develop an allergy, the reaction can be a good deal worse.
Some escape with a large swelling (up to 30cm in diameter) that lasts more than 24 hours and a rash such as hives elsewhere on the skin. Others experience abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting and in rare cases, anaphylaxis may occur.
For a mild reaction, over-the-counter creams containing a local anaesthetic, antihistamine and a mild hydrocortisone (steroid) will ease the symptoms while an ice pack will take down the swelling. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen will also help to relieve the symptoms.
Anyone with an anaphylactic reaction to wasp or bee stings should see their doctor about the possbility of carrying an EpiPen in case the worst should happen.
Do you suffer from an allergy? How does it affect your life? Leave your comments below...