Over half of the population of the world is allergic to something. Most may not know what and for some their allergies are obvious right from the start of their lives.
Allergic reactions can mean just a rash or minor discomfort for a few hours afterwards. For those with acute reactions, it may mean stays in hospital or even life-threatening bouts of illness.
For those whose reactions are not life threatening, allergies can be contained and be somewhat controlled. However, learning about your allergy and where you are likely to come into contact with the particular ingredient is recommended for all sufferers.
Allergies come in all shapes and guises. The first time that you realise you are having an allergic reaction you’ll probably find you’re suffering from the following symptoms:
- Itching or rubbing
- Red small spots on the skin
- Sore red areas where you have come in contact with the offending product
- Possible sickness or headaches
- Extreme cases: hyperactivity, emotional outbursts.
The most common allergies are:
- orange food coloring
- pollen (hayfever)
- dust-mites (asthma)
From the list above, a nut allergy is probably the most difficult (and the most common). Nut traces can be found in almost anything and having this disorder can be tricky when shopping at the supermarket.
If you suffer from asthma, the culprit is often tiny house and dust mites, invisible to the naked eye. These mites hatch and live in mattresses, carpets, and other warm places in your home. To relieve asthma caused by dust-mites, keep dust in your home to a minimum. Always open windows and doors when dusting and cleaning, and if possible make sure you dust and vacuum your mattresses and carpets once a day.
Of course, you can be allergic to just about anything – from the sun to a lipstick. Being allergic to something may not be easy to detect. In most cases, patients can be using a product for a while and then suddenly start to re-act to its ingredients.
If you’ve developed itchy, sore, red patches, the chances are you’ve found something you’re allergic to. So what now?
How do I relieve the itching/pain?
If you are allergic to a cream or lotion, dab off as much as you can with a cotton bud soaked in tepid water. Do not run the area under a tap. Your skin is likely to be dry and pouring water directly over the affected areas will only make it worse. If your pain is itchy and hot, place ice wrapped in a clean cloth over the area.
After the itching has subsided, use a cooling cream. Don’t use normal moisturizers as this may make it worse. Use a non-perfumed, non-colored lotion and ensure that it is lanolin-free (such as after-sun lotion) Re-apply every hour.
Do not scratch or itch, this will result in scabs and bleeding.
If your pain is severe, go to your local hospital emergency room, taking along whatever has caused this reaction (if possible).
How do I know what I’m allergic to?
If you’ve got an allergic reaction to certain areas of your body, think about what things may have come into contact with these areas. The list can be pretty exhaustive and you should think of all possibilities.
For example, if you’ve an itchy, sore scalp it is possible that you could be allergic to:
- your shampoo
- shampoo used by your hairdresser
- hair products
- hair coloring
- a hat
- a washing powder you’ve used to wash your hat (list this if you have other areas affected such as your body, skin surface)
- fabric softener
What can I do to find out for sure?
Eliminate all the possible culprits’ one by one, month by month. This can take quite some time so a good idea is to start with the most obvious possibilities and work your way down the list. For the example above, use a different shampoo for one month and see if the problem clears. If it does not, try eliminating something else.
In the meantime, for your problem areas where you are experiencing discomfort cooling creams and general antiseptic creams are available at your local chemist.
How do I avoid attacks in the future?
If you find out what ingredient your are allergic to, consult a chemist and ask which products are likely to carry the ingredient. Or read the labels and ensure you don’t purchase items with the chemical in them. Read up about your allergy, many organisations produce literature for allergy sufferers to help them lead a normal life:
British Allergy Foundation
St Bartholomew’s Hospital
London EC1A 7BE
Send a large SAE for an information pack.
National Asthma Campaign
Providence House, Providence Place
London N1 ONT
Tel: 0345 010203