Minding Your Allergies

The human body was crafted in its own unique way—a masterpiece where everyone is an original. The exceptions, perhaps, are the reason why the long-standing adage, “one man’s food is another man’s poison”, holds some ground. The body takes in all kinds of food for nourishment, but sometimes, some kinds of food do not settle well with our systems. This is not because they’re bad foods, but because our body says no. These rejections are manifested in what we call allergies.

An allergy is a damaging immune response by the body to a substance, to which it has become hypersensitive. It could be a particular food, pollen or a drug. The trigger of these reactions is what each individual must pay attention to. You may never know you are allergic to something until the day you take it in.

Here is an example of how an allergic reaction can take place; perhaps, having never had a reason to take Penicillin before, you now need it to treat your bacterial infection, and suddenly, your mouth starts to swell, and your eyes start to itch as well. What do you do? If you overlook these symptoms and you do not see them as a big deal, it is to your own detriment. Why? Your body has recognized the drug as a foreign enemy, and at this first exposure, your body has produced antibodies to attack it. The symptoms that come when your body produces these antibodies are just the tip of the iceberg—where your body is telling you that it cannot stand what you just took in.

The next time you are exposed to this drug, it can lead to life-threatening reactions—much worse than the first reaction. This is an anaphylactic reaction, where your throat starts closing up, your airways start to swell, and there is a drastic drop in blood pressure which can lead to a heart attack if emergency help is not administered. A shot of an EpiPen—an auto-injection of epinephrine that helps constrict blood vessels, relax muscles for breathing and raise blood pressure—can save the day if given quickly.

Prevention, they say, is better than cure. You can avoid both mild and severe allergic reactions, by knowing the things your body responds to and staying away from them. If you know your allergens—foreign substances that your body reacts to—, you are on the right track to prevent yourself from allergic reactions.

To diagnose what allergies you may have, your doctor may use a skin or blood test. During a skin test, your skin is pricked with needles containing potential allergens and your skin’s reaction is documented for each case. If it becomes red and inflamed, it means you are allergic to that substance. A skin test can help check for up to 50 allergens. For a blood test, the presence of allergy-causing antibodies—immunoglobulin E (IgE)—is tested for; these are the cells that react to allergens. All these tests will give you information about what your body considers harmful.

Now that you know, abstinence from your allergens is very important. It is imperative that you do not take your allergies for granted, because your body wants you to partner with it and not go against its wishes. Be a good partner today!

Ayoade Mercy

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