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April Health Challenge

Allergies- Nothing to Sneeze At!

Allergies are one of the most common health problems, with more than 50 million people affected by allergies or allergy-related conditions each year. While anyone can have allergies, typically they are more common in children and there is a tendency for allergies to run in families. Most people will have a problem with allergies or allergic reactions at some point in their lives since a first-time occurrence can happen at any age.

Allergies are an overreaction to the body’s natural defense system that helps fight infections and can range from slightly annoying to life-threatening. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system responds to substances that are usually harmless by producing antibodies that help fight the allergen. The result may include a rash, itchy eyes, runny nose, difficulty breathing and other symptoms.

There are hundreds of ordinary substances that can trigger an allergic reaction, but the most common allergens include:

  • Foods
  • Medicines
  • Household cleaners
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Dust/dust mites
  • Animal protein
  • Insect stings
  • Latex

While we often think about seasonal allergies that occur only during specific times of the year, a large percentage of the population report allergy symptoms caused by indoor allergens. Many of the household products we purchase to clean our homes have chemicals that can cause an allergic response in people who are sensitive to them, though fragrances are added frequently to cover up the smell of the harsh chemicals. Avoiding cleaning agents that contain strong fragrances or harsh chemicals, such as bleach and ammonia, can help minimize allergic reactions when cleaning.

Diagnosing allergy problems and determining appropriate treatment, starts with a doctor’s exam. Be prepared to answer several questions regarding symptoms and habits and also to undergo various testing to diagnose, treat and manage the allergies. Learn which questions you can be prepared to answer by downloading the Allergy Question Sheet.


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