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APRIL 2014 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 be affected by allergies, typically they are more common in children and there is a tendency for allergies to occur in families. Most people will have some problem with allergies or allergic reactions at some point in their lives and a first-time occurrence can happen at any age.

Allergic reactions 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.

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

  • Foods

  • Medicines

  • Household cleaners

  • Pollen

  • Mold

  • Dust/dust mites

  • Animal protein

  • Insect stings

  • Latex

While many of us think about seasonal allergies that only occur during certain 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 with have chemicals that can cause an allergic response in people who are sensitive to them. Oftentimes, there are fragrances added to cover up the smell of the harsh chemicals in them. 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 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!