For many people allergies are a constant companion. An everyday life without complaints is no longer imaginable. What types of allergies are there actually. What is the treatment? We explain everything about this important topic.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is a disease that is based on a misdirected defense reaction of the body. Normally, the task of the human immune system is to protect the body from foreign substances, such as pathogens.
The immune system recognizes these substances as dangerous and fights them off. If an allergy is present, the immune system classifies harmless foreign substances such as pollen or mites as dangerous, often after repeated contact. Antibodies against these substances, so-called allergens, are formed. This defense reaction causes numerous inflammatory processes in the body, which then show themselves in the typical complaints.
Once the immune system has reacted in this way, the plasma cells store the information about the trigger in antibodies, so that the next time the patient comes into contact with the foreign substance, the reaction occurs more quickly and more violently.
What are the triggers of an allergy?
There is no blanket answer to this question, because there is no completely confirmed knowledge about it. However, there are some factors that can influence its development.
More and more people are exposed to major environmental factors. Due to increasing air pollution, dust exposure in certain occupations or an unhealthy diet, the immune system is easily overwhelmed and an allergy is triggered more quickly.
There are more than 100 different gene variants that can promote the development of allergies. Of course, this does not mean that these people always develop allergies. In combination with bad environmental factors, however, the development is promoted.
There are different types of allergy?
Allergies are divided into four different types.
Type I allergy (immediate type)
In the case of the type I allergy, symptoms appear within seconds to minutes. Hay fever, insect venom allergies or animal hair allergies belong to this allergy type.
Type II allergy (cytotoxic reaction type)
Within a few hours, the first symptoms appear with the type II allergy type. This allergy can occur, for example, after blood transfusions. Triggers can also be drugs.
Type III allergy (immune complex type)
With the type III allergy type, allergic reactions occur within hours. Farmer's lung (a disease of the lungs that often occurs in farmers) is an example of a type III allergy.
Type IV allergy (delayed reaction type)
The type IV allergy is also called the "late type". Here it comes after hours or days to symptoms. Nickel allergy is one of them.
Most common type of allergy: Type I allergy
Type I allergy is the most common type of allergy. Allergy develops in two phases: In the first phase – sensitization – the body comes into contact with the allergen for the first time. It is recognized as foreign to the body. Antibodies formed. In this phase, those affected do not yet have any symptoms.
In the second phase, when the body comes into contact with the allergen again, it is recognized by the immune system. There is a strong histamine release (a messenger substance for inflammatory reactions) and the typical reactions occur.
What types of allergies are there?
As already mentioned, there are many different allergies. We deal with allergies that occur through the respiratory system.
What is the trigger?
The most widespread allergy in Germany is hay fever. This pollen allergy is an allergic reaction of the body to allergens such as pollen from trees, shrubs, grasses, grains, and wild herbs. The immune system classifies harmless pollen as dangerous. As already described, antibodies are then formed which cause an allergic reaction on the next contact, for example a runny nose and itchy eyes.
People with hay fever are usually only affected seasonally, depending on the pollen count. When which pollens fly can be read in a pollen calendar. The German Pollen Information Service Foundation, for example, offers an app that determines the pollen count. In addition, the weather and the region in which one is staying can also be decisive factors.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
In the case of pollen allergy there are classic complaints from which the affected person normally always suffers.
– Runny, itchy or stuffy nose – Watery, itchy or swollen eyes – Itchy throat or cough – Difficulty breathing – Fatigue – Headache – Fever
How to determine if you are really allergic?
To find out if you really have a pollen allergy, an allergist usually does a prick test. Various allergens are applied to the skin on the forearm. After about 20 to 30 minutes, the skin is wiped off and the result read off. The stronger the redness and wheal formation at the sting sites, the stronger is the allergic reaction. So you get the result after a very short time, whether you are allergic to pollen (and also in detail against which pollen) or not!) you are allergic.
Notice: Alternatively, you can also test yourself for pollen, for example with the self-test from market leader Cerascreen. You can find it here.
How is a pollen allergy treated?
To relieve symptoms in the short term, sufferers can take antihistamines. The duration of action of these drugs is usually very short, because the inflammatory messengers are blocked.
However, patients do not get a long-term improvement from this, the medication only combats the short-term symptoms.
Here you can find suitable products in an online pharmacy:
In the long term, immunotherapy (desensitization) is a way to fight the allergy. The pollen allergy is treated causally and not only symptomatically. The patient is given the allergen at regular intervals in increasing doses.
This way, if the therapy is effective, the immune system reduces hypersensitivity to the allergen over time. The therapy lasts up to three years. It is particularly common in children. Recommended for adolescents.
– Vacuum your carpets and upholstered furniture once a day if possible, this works best with a special vacuum cleaner with a pollen filter. – Install pollen screens in front of your windows. – Air your apartment when it rains, the moisture cleans the air from pollen. – Wash your hair at night before going to bed to wash away all the pollen. Care with a nasal douche in the morning. In the evening your nasal mucous membranes. – Change your clothes that you wore outside during the day before entering your bedroom.
What things should I avoid with hay fever??
– Avoid walks through meadows and fields. – Avoid very long stays outdoors in warm, dry and windy weather. – Keep the windows closed as much as possible. – If possible, do not dry your clothes outdoors, as the pollen easily sticks to the clothing. – Avoid opening the windows when driving a car.
House dust allergy
What is the trigger?
Besides hay fever, house dust allergy is one of the most widespread allergies in Germany. The name is misleading. Affected persons are not allergic to normal house dust, but to house dust mites, or more precisely, the mites' excrement.
Unlike pollen allergy, allergy sufferers of house dust allergy are affected by the allergy all year round and not only seasonally. House dust mites are small animals that cannot be seen with the naked eye. The harmless animals feed on human and animal dander and hair. Your droppings prefer to be deposited in fabrics.
The immune system of allergy sufferers reacts with an excess reaction to the excrement of the mites. This dries, decomposes and mixes with the house dust.
The symptoms of a house dust allergy hardly differ from those of a cold. For this reason, an allergy often remains undetected for a long time.
– Red, itchy and watery eyes – Rhinitis – Sneezing – Cough – Sore throat – Headache – Shortness of breath
If the symptoms persist throughout the year and are strongest at night and in the morning, this indicates a house dust allergy and should be clarified by a doctor.
With the Cerascreen self-test you can test yourself for house dust allergy from the comfort of your home. You can find the test here.
How is a house dust allergy treated?
Even in the case of a house dust allergy, those affected can relieve the symptoms in the short term with antihistamines. Here, as with pollen allergy, the symptoms are not permanently removed.
Similar to the pollen allergy, a desensitization is a possibility to fight the allergy in the long run. The process is the same: Gradually, higher and higher doses of the allergen are fed to the affected person. The body gets used to the allergy-causing substance with this immunotherapy. The process can take several years.
– Air your home and especially the beds often and thoroughly. – Wash your pillow and comforters frequently (preferably at 95°C as a boil wash). – Use a foam mattress and encasings (allergen-impermeable covers for beds and mattresses, which are often even covered by health insurance). – Wash your children's cuddly toys regularly. – Buy a vacuum cleaner with a microfilter. This prevents the dust with the allergens from entering the air again.
What things should I do without if I have a house dust allergy??
– Do not use blankets and pillows filled with feathers. – Change your mattress after eight years at the latest. – If possible, avoid carpets, curtains and upholstered furniture (smooth furniture such as leather furniture is better) – if you do not want to do without this furniture, you should treat it regularly with an anti-mite spray. – In general, you should make sure that there are not too many things in your home where dust can settle.
Animal hair allergy
What is the trigger?
If you are allergic to animal hair, contact with a certain type of animal or its hair triggers an allergic reaction. However, here too the name is misleading. Because it is not the animal hair itself that triggers the allergy, but proteins from dander, feces, urine, saliva or tear fluid of the animals that adhere to their hair.
If animals live in a household, their allergens can be found everywhere. They also stick to clothing. So it is possible that an allergic person reacts allergic already at contact with a cat owner. The immune system reacts with an excessive defense reaction: antibodies are formed. Mast cells secrete histamine in large quantities. This will cause the typical allergic symptoms.
Symptoms often appear immediately after contact with the animal. In many cases it is sufficient to enter a room where there is a lot of animal hair. The affected person must sneeze. The nose runs.
Reactions of the skin and mucous membranes of the eyes are also possible, itching and tearing may occur. The symptoms can be compared with those of conjunctivitis. In addition, coughing, shortness of breath and allergic asthma can also occur.
How is an animal hair allergy treated?
As with pollen allergy and house dust allergy, antihistamines help to temporarily relieve symptoms. They do not eliminate the allergy itself.
If you want to test from home whether you suffer from an animal hair allergy, you can do this very comfortably with the Cerascreen test. You can find it here.
Here you can find the right products:
Please inform yourself well beforehand about which medications you should take or ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
For those who suffer from severe symptoms, but may not want to give up their pet, hyposensitization is an option. Here, too, the therapy takes several years. Allergists achieve the best success with a cat hair allergy. The hyposensitization of an animal hair allergy does not pass many patients however without a trace. Often there are side effects such as rashes and itching.
What are the tricks for the apartment?
– Bathe your pet at least once a week. – Keep as many living rooms as possible or at least the bedroom completely free of animals. – Clean the apartment daily with a vacuum cleaner with microfilter. – At best, a person who is not allergic should take over the cleaning of your home.
What things should I do without if I have an allergy to animal hair??
– Avoid any contact with the animal that triggers an allergic reaction in you. – If contact is unavoidable or short-lived, have your medication with you. – Refrain from using materials that are made of animal hair. – An allergic reaction could also occur during a visit to the zoo or animal park. Reschedule those trips or have appropriate medication with you.
Conclusion: With small tricks to big successes
An allergy, no matter which one, always means a restriction for daily life. Affected people often have to take daily medication or use nasal spray, cannot keep pets or spend all day outside in summer.
A few little tricks, such as keeping the windows closed in the summer, not drying the clothes outside and washing the hair in the evening before sleeping, can make a significant difference.
Aids such as a vacuum cleaner with a microfilter, nasal douches or pollen screens can also help those affected. With a few changes in everyday life, the allergy can be so not fought, but relieved.