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The Basics of Allergies
Most people are allergic to one thing or another. Whether they’re indoor, outdoor, seasonal, or food-related, allergies can really put a damper on your day, and if untreated, they can become debilitating to your day-to-day functionality.
Let’s start by saying that allergies are very common. In fact, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, they affect more than 50 million Americans each year. On a fundamental level, an allergy is when your immune system reacts to an unknown or foreign substance (an allergen). Allergens can come from anywhere. They can come from something you ate (fruit, vegetables, spices), inhaled into your lungs (pollution, smoke), or touched (dogs, cats, grasses). Once the allergen has come into contact with your system, the immune system causes a reaction (sounds the alarms) to hopefully eliminate the object. Because let’s be real, it’s your immune system’s job to keep you in tip-top shape by fighting off those harmful pathogens. Reactions typically cause you to cough or sneeze. Your eyes might become itchy, your nose may start running, or you could experience a scratchy throat. These are all indicators that you’re having an allergic reaction to something. In severe cases, you might even get a rash, hives, or have trouble breathing.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for allergies; however, they are preventable and treatable if properly diagnosed by a licensed medical professional. With the many telemedicine advances, there are now highly qualified and licensed online doctors who can diagnose, treat, and help you navigate living with allergies.
Common Allergies and Symptoms of Allergies
Depending on the type of allergen your body comes into contact with can cause a variety of symptoms. The symptoms you experience because of said allergies can result from many things, including the severity of the allergy. For example, suppose you know you’re slightly allergic to cats, but you’ve been invited to dinner at a girlfriend’s house that has a new, super cute kitten that she’s dying to show off to her closest pals. You don’t want to miss it, so you take a medication that you know works pretty well to reduce the effect of the pet dander. You know you might still incur some of the symptoms of the allergy, but it’ll be worth it.
Food allergies generally take a while to notice. However in the case that you’re severely allergic to a particular food but were unaware; it is recommended that you seek medical help immediately.
Symptoms can include:
Seasonal allergies are, well, seasonal. They typically rear their ugly heads in the spring when everything is in bloom but can also be year-long, or occupational. For example, if you’ve taken a new job at a vineyard, you may become allergic to the dust that is kicked up by working trucks. Hay fever (nasal allergies) refers to the irritation or inflammation of the nose or nasal passageways.
Symptoms can include:
Runny and/or itchy nose
Nasal congestion and/or postnasal drip (constant running)
Watery, red, or itchy eyes
Scratchy throat, tongue, or roof of the mouth
Uncomfortable sinus pressure and pain
Most of the time, these symptoms can be managed with OTC treatments, but you will want to be sure to consult with your doctor before taking anything, especially if you’re already taking other medications, as they may not interact well together, which can cause more harm than good.
Indoor/Outdoor allergies can be any allergen found inside or outside that causes an allergic reaction. The most common allergens in this category include grasses, weeds, animal dander, mold, dust mites, and trees.
Symptoms can include:
Shortness of breath
Itchy, red, and/or watery eyes
Causes of Allergies
There are many causes of allergic reactions, with each dependent on your body’s immune response to specific allergens. Since your immune system is there to protect you from imminent danger, an allergic reaction is your body’s way of alerting you that an unknown substance has made itself know. Even if the substance is non-threatening, your body still wants you to know it has your back.
Before you begin any medication regimen, you’ll want to first know what allergies you suffer from. Luckily, there are at-home-testing kits (more about this later) for the most common allergies, including food, seasonal, and indoor/outdoor. Companies like EverlyWell offer allergy testing that you can administer yourself from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
An at-home allergy test can determine which particular pollens, molds, or other substances you’re allergic to and is beneficial for anyone experiencing allergy-related symptoms is recommended to consider this type of test.
Types of Allergy Tests
When it comes to allergy testing, you can either consult with your doctor, who can refer you to a lab or a specialist that will administer a skin or blood panel test in-person or if you’d rather not leave the comfort of your home, you can choose to order an at-home-lab-test to be delivered directly to your doorstep and done from the privacy of wherever you’re most comfortable.
At-Home Allergy Testing
As we mentioned above, there are now a handful of companies that will deliver a testing kit directly to your home.
How the actual test works is easy as your favorite pie (unless you’re allergic to pie). You will simply order the allergy test through the online company’s website, follow the provided instructions, provide your sample (usually blood or saliva), send it back to the lab, and wait a few days for your results.
The actual test will measure your body’s Immunoglobulin E (IgE) reactivity to common allergens. Your results will show your reactivity level to each allergen on a scale from very low to very high. Most at-home allergy tests will also include advice from a medical professional about what to do next. We think this information is an excellent tool for understanding which allergens might be causing uncomfortable and unwanted symptoms.
Types of At-Home Allergy Tests
With companies like EverlyWell, you are able to get easy and convenient allergy tests. They currently offer their customers access to an indoor/outdoor allergy test and a food sensitivities test.
Both tests measure IgE reactivity to common allergens via a blood draw that you can easily do yourself with the provided finger pricker (lancet). You will squeeze a couple of drops of blood onto a sample card, then send your sample to a CLIA certified lab for testing.
Companies that provide any at-home testing, including allergy tests are always HIPAA compliant, so you can be sure your test results are securely stored.