15th Mar, 2016
It is Segun’s 3 year birthday bash and his parents are so excited, their son is becoming a big boy and he is soon to start nursery school… Their friends come over with a bucket of ice cream which they share immediately for the children to avoid it melting.
Some minutes later Segun is seen gasping for air with his tongue swollen, he is immediately rushed to the hospital.
At the hospital, after immediate management of Segun followed by some investigations, Segun’s parents are seen being counselled by the Doctor.
The following conversation ensued…
Doctor: has your son experienced this before?
Segun’s parents: No!
Doctor: well… that was what we call an allergic reaction, your son was reacting to something he ate.
Segun’s parents: but what could that be?
Doctor: what was the last thing Segun had?
Segun’s parents: We were having his birthday party and some friends came over with some ice cream which we decided to share for the children.
Doctor: what kind of ice cream was it?
Segun’s parents: Doctor, normal ice cream
Doctor: I know, but what flavour of ice cream was it? Did it contain anything extra in it?
Segun’s parents: oh! Yes Doctor, it had nuts.
Doctor: that’s probably what caused Segun’s reaction, he had what we call an allergic attack.
Segun’s parents: Attack!!! Doctor, please what do you mean?
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is a state of abnormal and individual hypersensitivity acquired through a substance known as an allergen. This simply put, is a situation that occurs when the body’s own defence mechanism- the soldiers assigned to fight invading foreign bodies- start to over react and they see some particular substances (allergen) as foreign bodies start to fight them. Although before an allergic reaction can occur there has to be prior exposure i.e. the individual would have been exposed to the allergen before.
What are the things (allergens) that can cause allergies?
- Mold or dust
- Food e.g. nuts, eggs, fish, milk (especially in children), wheat, soybeans, shellfish etc.
- Animal dander: Flakes shed from skin of certain animals e.g. cats, dogs, livestock.
- Insect stings.
- Certain medications such as penicillin, sulphur containing drugs e.g. (septrin, Fansidar), aspirin etc.
- Fabrics, latex, jewelry
Symptoms of Allergy
How do you know you are having an allergic reaction? What are those things you notice when exposed to certain allergens?
Mild symptoms include:
- Sneezing with a blocked, runny or itchy nose.
- Localized itching.
- Itchy/watery eyes.
- Itchy feeling in the throat and inner ear.
Moderate symptoms include:
- Widespread itching
- Difficulty breathing
Severe symptoms include:
- Swellings of the lips, tongue, face.
- Abdominal cramps
Treatment of Allergies
The most common treatment for mild allergic reactions are anti-histamines e.g. Loratadine, chlorpheniramine (commonly sold in Nigeria as Piriton).
For more moderate and severe symptoms, you are advised to visit your Doctor.
But like the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’. It is better to avoid allergens/triggers so as to prevent an allergic reaction.
Allergies are not something to be feared…
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