What Allergies Are: An overreaction or hypersensitivity of the immune system to normally harmless substances, known as allergens, that enter or come into contact with the body. The body's inflammatory response can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. What Allergies Are Not: Contagious All in your head The same as everyone else's The same as food sensitivities or intolerances Only applicable when allergens are presented in large quantities Curable through chants and herb pastes On a timed schedule waiting to be outgrown Due to a lack of exposure to the allergen/a need to be forcibly exposed to the allergen Easy to predict Only found in certain climates Possible Causes of Allergies: Infection, especially in early childhood Emotional stress Pregnancy Heredity Environmental pollution Dietary changes Allergen levels in the environment Degree and length of exposure to the allergen Other unknown causes because even the healthiest person in the healthiest location with no predisposition to allergies may still develop an allergy Common Symptoms of Allergies: Urticaria (hives) - an often painful skin rash recognized by raised pink to red itchy bumps or patches on the skin. Swollen tongue, lips, throat, and/or face Anaphylaxis Little Anaphylaxis Itchy, flaky, peeling, swollen, and/or flushed skin or other skin rashes Dizziness, anxiety, headache, loss of consciousness, and/or confusion Cough, pain swallowing, hoarseness Sudden drop in blood pressure and/or overly slow or racing heartbeat Chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, and/or asthma Vomiting, diarrhea, gas/bloating, stomach cramps, and other gastrointestinal distress. Blisters Red, itchy, watery and/or swollen eyes. May have clear, runny fluid leaking from eyes. Blocked nasal passages, due to swollen nasal tissue. May have clear, runny fluid leaking from nose. The post nasal drip from this symptom can cause sore throat. When undetected, as long as symptoms persist, this sore throat may appear chronic or reoccurring. Low immune system which makes the person prone to infectious illnesses and further wears down their body. How to Diagnose an Allergy: Many people with existing allergies often recommend eliminating the suspected allergen from your diet or environment and monitoring yourself to see if you continue having reactions. Allergens can stay in your system for any time ranging from 24 hours to a couple weeks and while some people will react only if directly exposed to the allergen themselves (eg. drinking or touching the substance themselves), many others will react to concentrations of the allergens in someone else's body transferred through any physical contact such as a hug, kiss, handshake, or even touching the person's belongings. Still others will react to allergen particles in the air, for example, people allergic to peanuts famously react to someone opening a pack of peanuts in the same airplane they're traveling in. After a few weeks of avoiding the suspected allergen, gradually introduce it again and note if you have any reaction. If so, you can explain this to your healthcare practitioner and seek out a diagnosis. This is commonly referred to as an elimination diet but can also be used to eliminate non-food allergens such as fragrance, pollen, insect bites or stings, etc. Your health care provider may recommend a blood test, patch test, or skin prick test for diagnosis as well. Seeing as we're in Trinidad though, many practitioners often avoid running tests or making diagnoses and/or often misdiagnose patients. In this case, second and third opinions can be quite valuable, though some practitioners will often diagnose patients just based on seeing the reaction themselves or hearing the description from patients. Little Known Facts About Allergies: While some people, especially children, may outgrow allergies, in many cases a new one eventually takes its place. The longer and more often an allergic person is exposed to their allergens, is the higher the chance of their developing more allergies and other illnesses as by-products of their allergies. Every person's allergies are different. For example, one person's dairy allergy may allow them to eat cheese or goat's milk, while another person may react violently to something processed on the same equipment as products with traces of dairy. Some allergens such as pollen, dander, dust, wheat, and peanut particles can remain in the air for days after the source of the allergen is removed. Many people are misdiagnosed as having allergies when in fact, they have an intolerance or sensitivity. Conversely, there's a strikingly vast percentage of people that unknowingly have allergies and attribute their symptoms to other causes. Some have such minimal symptoms that they may never know. Although heredity may greatly increase your chances of developing allergies, there's still no guarantee that you will have the same allergies as your family members or react in the same way. Animals have allergies too. There are no hypo-allergenic pets. People who are allergic to pets are usually allergic to the dander, dust, and pollen trapped in the pet's hair, not the actual hair, so even hairless breeds can still trigger allergies. Dander is found in the skin, so if you're allergic to your pet, shaving them is not going to make it go away. Hypo-allergenic products are not allergen free or fully allergy-friendly. They are made with minimal allergens and cannot legally be advertised as fully allergen free. Probiotics have been shown to have a healing effect on the gut and many people with allergies have reported a positive result when using them daily after an extended period of time in easing symptoms and in some cases, completely outgrowing the allergen. Reactions may differ every time the person is exposed to the allergy. For example, one reaction may lead to hives, another to gastrointestinal discomfort, and yet another to anaphylaxis, all from the same person reacting to the same allergen. Examples of Some Allergens: Dairy Wheat Corn/Maize Soy Peanut Tree Nuts Shellfish Fish Egg Fragrance Mosquito bites Bee stings Pet dander Chamomile Cinnamon Penicillin Latex Mold spores Celery and Celeriac Pumpkin Beans Peas Mustard Sesame Seeds Sulphur Dioxide *Note: This information is by no means the "be all end all" on allergies; just a tiny peek into that world. There are many scientific debates on allergies, causes, and treatments and as medicine advances, so too does the relevant information. Most of this information was developed from years of personal research and experience. None of this information is intended for diagnostic purposes. If you suspect a health problem, please consult your health practitioner.