50 million (or one in five) Americans suffer from allergies. Another 20 million struggle with asthma. Allergy is the fifth leading chronic disease in the United States for people of any age. It is the third most common chronic disease in children 18 years old and younger. Surprisingly, it is one of the most overlooked diseases. Very few people actually know what causes allergies and even fewer are aware of the available treatments.
To begin, an allergy is defined as an overreaction of the human immune system to a foreign protein substance called an allergen. The allergen can cause problems whether eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected or touched.
Common allergy symptoms include:
- itchy and/or watery eyes,
- runny nose
- and sore throat.
In severe cases, sufferers might experience rashes, hives, lowered blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks and even death.
There are many types of allergies such as indoor and outdoor, seasonal and year-round, food and drug, latex, insect, skin and eye allergies. Interestingly enough, allergy prevalence has increased since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups. Perhaps, this has something to do with the increase of pollutants in our environment.
Allergies are caused in part by genetics. If one parent has an allergy of any type, the child has a one in three chance of developing that allergy. If both parents have allergies, that number jumps to a seven in ten chance of developing the allergy.
The bad news is there are no cures for allergies. However, the good news is that with proper prevention and treatment, allergies can be managed.
The first step is to identify the type of allergy, or allergies, a person has. A board certified allergist is the best person to help you determine which allergies you do have.
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