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Anatomy of the nasal structure

An allergy is an immune response by the body to certain stimuli in the environment that are normally harmless.

What is going on in the body? 
The immune system is made up of chemical pathways and cells within the body. When these are activated, an allergic response occurs. Allergies occur in response to normally harmless triggers known as allergens. The body of a person with an allergy responds to an allergen by attacking it.

The immune response activates certain immune cells called mast cells. Mast cells trigger the release of chemicals. These chemicals include histamine and leukotrienes. They act on tissues in the body and create the allergic response.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
Allergies can affect nearly any part of the body. The nose, sinuses, eyes, lungs, and skin are most affected. Symptoms may include:
  • congestion of the sinuses and nose
  • coughing
  • itching of the eyes
  • red, itching rash
  • runny nose
  • wheezing, which is a high-pitched sound heard when the person breathes
What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
No one knows for sure why some people have allergies and others do not. Family history appears to play a part in a person's development of allergies.

Some common types of allergies include the following: What can be done to prevent the condition? 
There is little that can be done to prevent allergies from developing. Once they have developed, flare-ups can be reduced by allergy Injections. These Injections decrease a person's sensitivity to the allergen.

How is the condition diagnosed? 
Allergies are generally diagnosed with a medical history and physical examination. Blood tests and skin testing can be done to identify specific allergens.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
Most allergic reactions simply cause extreme discomfort. They usually do not pose any long-term risk to the body.

What are the risks to others? 
Allergies are not contagious and pose no risk to others.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Medications used to treat allergies include the following:
  • antihistamines, which help prevent the allergic response. Many antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine,  terfenadine, astemizole, and loratadine are available over the counter.
  • anti-inflammatory medications, which reduce inflammation in the airways. These include rhinocort, nedocromil, prednisone, beclomethasone, and hydrocortisone.
  • bronchodilators, such as salbutamol, to open airways and reduce wheezing
  • decongestants, such as guaifenesin, to reduce nasal congestion

Avoidance therapy involves removing or reducing exposure to allergens. For example, problematic foods can be identified and avoided. Air cleaners and hypoallergenic covers on mattresses can reduce nasal allergies.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Antihistamines may cause drowsiness. Decongestants and bronchodilators can cause wakefulness.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
Treatment of allergies is generally lifelong.

How is the condition monitored? 
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne

Last Updated: 18/09/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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