An allergy is a disorder of the immune system in which it recognizes as enemies otherwise harmless substances from the environment: house dust, food, pollens, medicines and develops a response which damages the body systems - respiratory tract, skin, blood vessels, mucosal membranes, which causes various diseases like asthma, allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis, allergic shock, urticaria, angioedema, atopic dermatitis, etc. Allergic reactions are classified in four basic types, as in every type dominate particular immune cell lines and humoral (molecular) factors. In terms of the time of their onset the allergic reactions are fast (starting in minutes after the contact with the allergen) and slow (which takes hours to days to became clinically expressed). The type of reactions depends on the type of immune system disorder, as well as the nature of the allergen (the substance which triggers the allergic reaction).
What are the symptoms of allergic diseases?
The signs and symptoms of allergic diseases are extremely variable but the most frequently reported are these from the respiratory system, the skin, the conjnctiva, the cardio-vascular and digestive systems. Typical respiratory allergic diseases are allegic rhinitis, asthma, pulmonitis and sometimes laryngitis. Allergic rhinitis is the most frequently diagnosed allergic disease. There are two basic types: persisting (perennial, permanent) and intermittent (seasonal, periodic). The first one is caused usually by indoor and occupational allergens, while the second one mainly by pollens and oudoor mould spores. Except damaging the patient’s quality of life allergic rhinitis (especially the persisting type) is an important predictive factor for the development of asthma in these children. That is why its early diagnosis and treatment is of great importance. Unfortunately it is frequently misdiagnosed since it usually manifests itself with scant nasal discharge, which runs mainly to the throat and nasal blockage and mourning cough and sneezing which are assessed as frequent common colds or viral infections. Bronchial asthma is a disease representing episodes of constriction of the bronchial smooth muscles and discharge of thick, viscid sputum. This causes coughing attacks, wheezing in the chest (more often in exhalation), and variously expressed shorth-breathing, decreasing the patient’s tolerance to physical efforts. The mildest forms can subside spontaneously or with accidental use of relieving medicines, but usually a longlasting and sometimes permanent treatment and prevention are needed. The early detection of symptoms are extremely important for the better success of treatment and more favourable prognosis for the patient.
The skin is another organ commonly damaged by allergic reactions. Atopic dermatitis is the most frequent first sign of allergy in the early childhood. This disease is characterized by red, irritated, scaly and itching skin of the cheeks, chin, neck, flexion aspects of the knees and elbows, the frontal areas of the legs and dorsal parts the hands. It is quite commonly related to food allergy. About half of these children develop asthma and allergic rhinitis in their later life. That is why its early and active treatment can prevent or alleviate the further development of allergic diseases in these patients. Apart from these most common allergic diseases there are many others, like allergy to medicines, foods, insects, cosmetics, washing powders, metals, etc.
Why consult an allergy specialist?
The main symptoms of allergic diseases are from the respiratory system, the skin, the digestive and cardiovascular system. That is why the first consultants of the patient are usually specialists in pulmonology, ENT diseases, dermatology, gastroenterology. What additional benefit coud offer the allergy specialist to this patient? The main role of the allergologist is the complex approach, taking in mind the common immune disorder, aiming to find and treat the cause, not only the symptoms of the disease. This process takes sometimes a lot of time and effort but gives the patient a better prognosis according to the current disease and also can prevent the development of other allergic diseases in him/her. That is why the best results are reached by coordinated work of the specialists in allergy and these, working with the clinically expressed disease, the family practitioner, together with the patient and his/her family – the so called “team” approach, in which mutual trust and wide knowledge provide opportunities for effective treatment of a complex disorder.