Allergies are a sign of immune system sensitivity to an array of irritants, from foods to airborne particles. Allergic symptoms include watery eyes, sinus congestion, headaches, gastrointestinal upset, respiratory distress, skin irritation and fatigue. Fortunately, documenting your symptoms and making simple lifestyle changes can resolve the problem.
Document the history of the onset, duration, severity, and changes of the symptoms. While it may take time to backtrack, you may immediately notice that a skin rash began around the same time that you switched detergents, toothpastes, bathing soaps or sheets, for example.
Determine the presence of a food allergy, as opposed to a food intolerance. Only a food allergy provokes antibody and histamine responses, which can be measured by a physician’s blood test. Food allergy symptoms typically appear within two hours of eating. They include hives, wheezing, strong abdominal pain (or diarrhea or vomiting) and difficulty swallowing. Limit exposure to the entire group of foods related to the suspect food item to pinpoint personal sensitivity, after which specific foods can be reintroduced.
Refrain from scented skin care and laundering products. Consider changing acne medications, as they can be skin irritants. You may also need to switch medications. Antidepressants such as Paxil and Zoloft, birth control medications such as the Pill, and blood thinners such as Coumadin may produce skin rashes as a side effect. Do not cease or alter medications without consulting with your primary care physician.
Check curtains, rugs, sofa and pillow covers, lampshades and stuffed toys for signs of mildew; wash or replace as needed. Check paint for bubbles (indicating trapped fluid) or mold, and find the culprit for the moisture. Consider replacing your vacuum or using bags to trap the dust and particles. If you live in a highly polluted environment, you may need to investigate air filters or water filtration devices.
Seek allergy testing to obtain concrete information with which you can make informed decisions. Testing is painless, quick and offers results in at most 48 hours. To obtain accurate results, you may need to refrain from taking medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants or heartburn medications for up to ten days prior to the examination. Check with your primary care physician for more precautions.
About this Author
Trina Lion has been a literacy consultant for 14 years: writing, proofreading and copyediting for an array of industries, and spearheading grant-funded literacy programs for families. Lion has written for Braille Bug, the children’s website of the American Foundation of the Blind, and “Acupuncture Today,” a journal for practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.