What is allergy?

Allergy Testing- When the defense system of the body perceives an innocent substance as harmful & over-reacts, then it results in an allergic reaction or allergic disease. The immune system is the defense system of the body in this context. This substance is called an allergen. For example, a dust particle is a harmless substance for most people but when it is inhaled by a dust allergic patient, the body’s immune system overreacts to cause an allergic reaction in the nose & lungs resulting in nose allergy & asthma.

Am I suffering from an allergy?

Allergy is associated with various symptoms. Different allergic diseases are associated with different allergic manifestations. You can match the following diseases with your symptoms to find the allergic disease.
  1. Wheezing, chest tightness, cough & shortness of breath à Lung allergy or Asthma
  2. Itching nose, watering nose, nasal block à Nose allergy or Allergic rhinitis
  3. Itching eyes, watering eyes & red eyes à Eye allergy or Allergic conjunctivitis
  4. Itching skin, rash/hives, red skin à Skin allergy or Urticaria/Eczema/Angioedema
  5. Vomiting, cramps, bloating & diarrhoea à Stomach allergy or Allergic gastritis/enteritis
  6. Feeling of sinking, low BP, pale appearance, perspiration à Anaphylaxis
Presence of any symptom à Suspect the disease. Presence of many symptoms à high chances of disease. Get it confirmed by a doctor.

How to get my allergies treated?

An unknown enemy is always more dangerous than any known enemy. The known enemy can be conquered but it is difficult to defeat even a weak enemy who is unknown to us. Personal experience plays a role in allergen identification. But it needs great acumen and patience.  Broadly allergy testing is done by two methods; skin prick tests and blood testing. Newer methods of component-based molecular chip allergy testing may provide promising results.  Once identified a patient should take due precautions to avoid exposure to that allergen.  

How to get treatment?

Doctors usually prescribe medicines to provide relief in allergy symptoms on the skin, nose, and lungs. Very good quality inhalers, nasal spray, and antihistaminic tablets are available which provide quick relief for the majority of people. However, some patients get repeated symptoms and are not able to avoid the allergen. In such cases immunotherapy proves useful. Immunotherapy: oral or subcutaneous Immunotherapy is like a vaccine for allergy in which gradually increasing strengths of the suspected allergen are instilled in the body of the patient. It is available in 2 forms: subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). The course duration of both types of immunotherapy is 3-5 years.

What are the most common pollen?

Pollens are divided into 3 types namely trees, grasses, and weeds. The most allergic pollen in  Rajasthan belongs to the Holoptelea tree. It has its flowering season in the month of February to April. Another important pollen season is that of the Poaceae family belonging to grasses with the flowering season from September to November. Following are common pollens found in significant amounts during yearlong surveillance of pollens at Asthma Bhawan.
  • March: Holoptelea (chaleel or bandar ki roti tree)
  • April: Azadirachta indica (Neem tree)
  • August: Asteraceae
  • September: Poaceace: (Cereals & grasses), Cheno-Amaranthacea, Cyanodon(Doob ghas), Cassia (a type of cinnamon), Amaranthus spinosus (Cholai) and Helianthus (Sun flower)
  • November: Sacchrum munja (Sarkanda)
  • December: Brassica (Cabbage/mustard)

What is pollen count?

Pollen counts are the number of pollen present per cubic meter of air. Pollen assists in the wind pollination of flowers. Some of these pollen causes an allergic reaction in humans. The measurement of these pollen in the air is a useful  predictor of the rise in allergic symptoms in the population. Regular pollen counting is done to make a pollen forecast. The pollen is measured in air by means of an instrument named the Burkard spore trap system. The pollen counts per cubic meter in the air are graded as follows:
  • Low : 1 to 14, Moderate: 15 to 89, High : more 90. Pollen count higher than 1500 is a Very High

What is fungal spore count?

Fungal spores are microscopic particles seen in the air. It interests us because of its potential to cause disease in both plants and humans. It can be both indoor and outdoor. These spores are ubiquitous in the environment. Humidity of more than 65%, ambient temperature between 10 to 32 degrees Celcius, and presence of organic matter provides optimal conditions for growth of fungus. Around 1.5 to 5 million species of fungal spores exist in the environment with Alternaria and Cladosporium genera being the most studied fungal spores.  A Burkard portable air sampler is used to quantify fungal spores in the air. The indoor mold level is acceptable till it does not exceed 2-5 times the outdoor mold level. Fungal spore counts per cubic air are graded as follows:
  • Low: less than 6.5K, Moderate: 6.5 to 13K, High: 13 to 50K and more than 50K are considered Very High fungal spore count.

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