Bay Cluster Network

With Dr Lamah El-Sharkawi and her sister Reem

It is estimated that one third of people during their lifetime will suffer from an allergic reaction. There are many different things someone could be allergic to including tree or grass pollen better known as hay fever, food allergies, in particular peanuts are documented to be on the incline but still remain relatively uncommon as are allergies to bee or wasp stings. 

What is an allergy? 

An allergy is the body’s reaction to a particular substance e.g. grass or tree pollen, food, insect bites.

What are common substances that cause allergies? 

  • Grass and tree pollen i.e. allergy to these is more commonly known as hay fever 
  • Food e.g. nuts, shellfish, fruit, eggs and cow’s milk 
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Medication e.g. penicillin, ibuprofen and really any medication 

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

After exposure to the substance that caused the allergic reaction, symptoms that present with a few minutes of exposure include:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • A red itchy rash

Many allergic reactions are mild but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur. This can be life threatening, is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.

What are the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction? 

The reaction can affect the whole body within a few minutes of exposure to the substance and can present with:

  • Swelling of the throat and mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Blue lips or skin
  • Losing consciousness

How are allergies diagnosed? 

If you suspect that you may have an allergy talking to your GP about your symptoms and their frequency is advised. You may be referred on to a specialist if your allergy is severe or the substance that you’re allergic to is not obvious.

Further tests that may be carried out on you include skin prick testing and blood tests.

How do you treat allergies? 

The best way to keep your symptoms at bay is avoiding the substance you’re allergic to e.g. food allergies- being careful about what you consume, hay fever- staying in doors when the pollen count is high.

Further more there are medications that you can take for allergies, many of which you can buy from your local pharmacy without prescription. Antihistamines are often recommended either as and when you notice the symptoms or as a preventative medication. Decongestants are often used as short-term treatments for a blocked nose. Many other treatments are available from your pharmacy or GP so always feel free to make an appointment as needed.

Finally if you, or you know someone with anaphylaxis, you’ll know you/they carry special injectors containing a medicine called adrenaline to use in an emergency. Keep this injector on you at all times as it could literally save your life.



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