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    About allergy
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The term allergy is used to describe a response, within the body, to a substance, which is not necessarily harmful in itself, but results in an immune response and a reaction that causes symptoms and disease in a predisposed person, which in turn can cause inconvenience, or a great deal of misery. Almost anything can be an allergen; the most common being house dust mites, pollen from trees and grasses, cats, dogs, chemicals such as washing powder or other detergents.

Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with the conditions: sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, coughing, swelling, itchy eyes, ears, lips throat & palate (roof of mouth), shortness of breath etc.
The most common allergens:
• Inhalants such as pollens, house dust, and house dust mites.
• Foods such as cow's milk, eggs, chicken, shellfish, peanuts, soybeans, wheat products, etc.
• Drugs such as penicillin.
• Substances which touch the skin. These include plant oils, cosmetics and perfumes, nickel in
jewelry and chemicals such as washing powder.

The most common allergic diseases

Contact allergy is an allergic skin reaction from contact with a substance that is usually harmless to others. The commonest manifestation is an itchy rash that develops over a few days, after skin contact with a substance. The affected area first becomes itchy, then red and swollen with vesicles (water bubbles). Occasionally the rash is more chronic, manifesting as an itchy patch that does not heal for weeks or even months. This usually occurs when there is frequent contact with the substance e.g. a watch strap or chemicals such as washing powder. The rash resulting from contact allergy is called allergic contact dermatitis. A substance that can cause contact allergy is called a contact allergen. Common contact allergens are: metals e.g. nickel in watch straps, chrome in cement, skin care products e.g. fragrances, lanolin or chemicals such as washing powder.

Atopic dermatitis or eczema is an itchy, dry, hypersensitive skin disorder affecting many people. It is common in children but can occur at any age. It is not infectious or contagious. The exact cause of atopic eczema is unknown. It may be hereditary. The patient or some family members may have other hypersensitive conditions like asthma or hay fever.

Asthma is a common condition which affects the small air passages (bronchi) of the lungs. These passages become swollen and inflamed, and this leads to the production of mucus (fluid). During an asthma attack, these small airways become narrow. This reduces the flow of air in and out of the lungs. This may lead to wheezing, coughing and difficulty with breathing. It is also associated with other conditions such as eczema, hayfever and allergies. Wheezing and coughing are common symptoms of asthma.

Allergy is extremely widespread and affects approximately 20% of the population at some time in their life. Each year the numbers are increasing, approximately 30% of all sufferers being children.

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