What are allergies?
An allergy is a reaction of the immune system against a harmless substance from the environment. If the body enters into contact with that substance, it reacts with an exaggerated immune answer. The foreign substance is seen as more dangerous for the body than is actually the case. The contact of the immune system can happen over the skin, through the lungs, by ingestions or via the blood stream. The list of substances that can cause an allergic reaction is very long: it starts with pollen, grass and goes on to certain fruits, fish, scrimps, bee bites, grain, milk products, certain metals, animal hair and medications. It is very important that there is a causal correlation between the exposure to the substance and the allergic reaction.
What are the symptoms?
A local reaction such as a rash can develop with skin contact, inhalation can lead to breathing problems and ingestion can also lead to skin rash. In case of a generalized reaction, within minutes to hours several symptoms can simultaneously develop. This can include a rash, swelling of the mucosa, vomiting, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties, whereby it is an analphylactic reaction.
What are the complications?
An anaphylactic reaction affects the circulation system of the body, including the heart and the above symptoms can be life-threatening and ultimately lead to death.
What is the therapy?
The therapy of an anaphylactic reaction is immediate admission to the hospital. If necessary the ambulance need to be called. Allergies can be treated with antihistaminics and glucocorticoids. The exact therapy will be determined by your doctor. In case of multiple allergies, risk of anaphylactic reaction and allergies strongly influencing daily routines, hyposensitization could be a choice.
What is an Epi-Pen and who should receive one?
An Epi-Pen is an injection, containing the medication Epinephrin. It is an emergency medication that can be administered in an anaphylactic reaction by the patient itself or a different person if a doctor is not present. The injection can be given intramuscularly or subcutaneously. Those patients with a risk of anaphylactic reaction, who did not undergo hyposensitization or if a hyposensitization was not successful should be prescribed an Epi-Pen. It would be best if one injection is kept at home and a second one is carried with the patient. An example of such a situation is the risk of an anaphylactic reaction towards nuts.