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Can allergies be life threatening?
A severe reaction to a drug may lead to anaphylaxis - a condition that may be fatal. Asthma if untreated can also be dangerous.
How can I determine to which substance I am allergic?
Many substances can trigger an allergic reaction. To determine which substance is triggering the allergy, skin test using tiny amounts of commonly troublesome allergens is done.
Skin Prick Test:
A tiny amount of allergen is lightly pricked into skin. If you are allergic to that substance, the spot where the allergen entered will swell, itch a bit and form a hive within 15 minutes.
Other test done is RAST test. Skin tests are usually avoided in children less than 8 years of age.
What is the treatment of allergies?
Treatment consists of avoiding the allergen (if one knows the substance causing allergies). Drugs that counter the effects of histamine i.e. anti-histamines are prescribed whenever there is an allergic reaction. However these anti-histaminics may cause drowsiness and should be taken under a doctor's supervision. Other drugs used are steroids in form of nasal spray for allergic rhinitis or eye drops for allergic conjunctivitis and inhaler for asthma. Steroids are used for prevention of an allergic attack and are given for a long time at a minimal dose to keep the patient symptom free.
In few patients (adolescents and adults), another therapy called as immunotherapy may be tried. Immunotherapy is a preventive treatment for allergic reactions to substances such as grass, pollen, house dust mites, wasp and bee venom. It involves giving gradually increasing doses of the substance to which the person is allergic. The gradual increases of the allergen causes the immune system to become less sensitive to the substance probably by producing a blocking antibody.
In which conditions can immunotherapy be used?
Immunotherapy is used in allergic rhinitis, allergies to drugs,asthma and insect sting allergy. It is of no use in skin allergies. Immunotherapy is usually given for few months to 2-3 years and benefits are seen after 6 months to 1 year.
How is immunotherapy given?
Immunotherapy is given as injection into the skin starting with low doses of allergen once or twice a week following which it is gradually increased. After 6 months to 1 year, maintenance injections are given once in 2 weeks to maintain benefit.
Can allergy be cured?
No, some individuals may outgrow allergies but it cannot be cured. Thus prevention remains the mainstay of treatment.
Last updated on 01-04-2008
Specialist Answers On Allergies in Children
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