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The Lowdown on Allergies

With flowering plants reaching their full bloom and trees blossoming with vibrant greens, the beginning of summer is an uplifting sight. For many, though, spring and summer brings seasonal allergies-- they can make us itchy, runny, stuffy, and groggy. So what exactly are allergies? Can we do anything about them?

What are Allergies?

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In general, allergies describe a wide range of conditions. They aren’t diseases but instead reactions-- measures that our own body takes when introduced to a foreign substance. Often, these substances aren’t themselves dangerous, but our body’s overreaction can be.

Substances that cause allergies are called allergens. They can enter a body through inhalation, swallowing, injections, or just touch. An immune system reacts not because the allergen is harmful but instead because the reaction is misguided. Basically when a person has an allergy, their immune system cannot distinguish between a harmful or harmless antigen that enters the body. This is why something as benign as tree pollen can cause the violent seasonal symptoms that many experience.

Are Allergies Common?

Allergies are incredibly common. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million American have experienced various types of allergies annually. They are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the United States.

Is There a Cure?

There currently is no generally accepted cure for allergies. The best treatment for them is prevention. Ensuring your home stays clean, investing in air purifiers and dehumidifiers, and washing hands often are good early measures you can take to stay safe.

After an allergy has occurred, there are methods to mediate symptoms. In the case of anaphylaxis, epinephrine pens are often administered. The drug constricts blood vessels, increases blood pressure, and decreases swelling. For less severe reactions, over the counter medications like steroid cream or Benadryl tablets can help reduce the severity of symptoms.

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