Itching. Sneezing. Wheals. Redness. These are all signs of an allergy.
There are 2 general kinds of allergies. There is the acute allergy that comes from recent exposure to an allergen. There is also the chronic allergy that is a different creature altogether.
Remember the movie My Girl? The protagonist, Thomas J. (played by Macaulay Caulkin), died suddenly from bee stings after a beehive was disturbed. This is an extreme form of acute allergy but not exactly rare. Many “simple” allergies have caused deaths. In television and the movies, we see allergy victims portrayed as gasping for breath with their faces bloating. Yes, that is possible.
Acute exposures come from something you ate, drank, touched or like in My Girl, an insect bite/sting. Some very common examples are allergies to peanuts, shellfish, bee and jellyfish stings, hair dye and liquor (alcohol). Sometimes, our skin itches because of the textile our clothes are made of. Eating food that you are allergic to may cause difficulty of breathing or vomiting or swelling of the lips and tongue. What we do not want to happen is laryngospasm or the closing up of the airway because of swelling. Once a person suffering from an allergy has difficulty breathing, steps should be taken to ensure that his airway is clear.
If the allergen is mild, then the fix is mild too. One tablet of our favorite antihistamine is usually enough for most allergies. Then of course, the allergen must be eliminated. Remove the offending clothes or move away from the allergenic pollen or stop eating the peanuts. For more severe allergic reactions, an injection of antihistamine or epinephrine may be necessary to prevent the airway from swelling up and closing.
Then there’s the other kind. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had morning sniffles. I’d wake up sniffling and sneezing, but this would stop by around 8:30 or 9 in the morning. I had the classic itchy and watery eyes. This was allergic rhinitis. This is a chronic condition that requires daily medications. If you are unlucky and you have the whole atopy spectrum (like me), you will have allergic rhinitis, dermatitis and asthma. You will then require medication that will cover all 3 conditions.
This chronic condition can be frustrating and disheartening. It will not disappear anytime soon. I take comfort in the fact that the medications available today are much, much better than those that were around when I was a child. There’s also so much more research that is going into conditions such as these. Thus, there is something that can be done for this. You don’t have to suffer through it. What you need to do is see a doctor—the allergologist-immunologist. They can help you live a more fulfilling, less frustrating life.