Allergy symptoms occur when a person’s immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless for most people. These substances are known as allergens and are found in house dust mites, pets, pollen, insects, moulds, foods and some medicines.
The allergen binds to the IgE antibodies. When this happens, the mast cell breaks open to release inflammatory substances, e.g. histamine, which quickly travels through your body to fight off what it senses as harmful. The histamine affects the body tissue and causes an inflammation.
The most common allergy symptoms can simply make you uncomfortable. For example, you may have watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, a rash or hives. Other more serious symptoms, like trouble breathing and swelling in your mouth or throat, may be a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis caused by insect stings, food, or drug allergies.
Antihistamines are used by allergy sufferers to help relieve allergy symptoms and also to prevent allergy symptoms from occurring. Antihistamines are available over the counter without a prescription.
Two types of antihistamines are used for allergies. They are known as first-generation antihistamines and second-generation antihistamines. First generation antihistamines commonly have the side effect of drowsiness whereas second generation antihistamines do not.
Immunotherapy (desensitization) in medicine describes a treatment method to reduce or eliminate a person’s negative reaction to a substance or stimulus. In this treatment method a person is exposed to the stimuli in small measured doses so their body builds up a natural immunity.
Allergists have used desensitisation therapy for decades by injecting small amounts of allergens to patients and increasing this dose over time (subcutaneous immunotherapy). In the last twenty years desensitisation methods have advanced and this process can now be achieved through drops of the same purified allergens being placed under a patient’s tongue (sublingual immunotherapy). Learn more about allergy immunotherapy in the ‘Services’ section of our website.