Allergies can be triggered by a wide range of substances with common allergens including pollen, dust, animal hair, latex, mould and chemicals commonly found in household products such as detergents and hair dyes. Allergies to food are also common, with nuts, certain types of fruit, shellfish, eggs and milk in particular often provoking more serious allergic reactions along with some insect bites and stings. Some people are allergic to certain medications, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and antibiotics that include penicillin. It is particularly important to pass on this information if receiving medical advice or treatment for a separate issue.
Symptoms of allergies can vary greatly from person to person and depending on what has triggered the allergic reaction. They can be categorised as mild, moderate and severe, with appropriate courses of action and treatment for each. Mild allergic reactions tend to affect certain parts of the body such as rashes on the skin, itchy, streaming eyes and a runny or blocked nose. These symptoms usually only last a few minutes or until the allergen is no longer present. The best way to control mild allergies is learning to avoid the things that you are allergic to, be it paying attention to what you eat, avoiding close contact with animals and pets and washing them regularly, keeping your home dust-free and well ventilated or checking the pollen count and avoiding grassy areas or even staying inside if it particularly high. However, avoidance isn’t always easy or possible, especially when traveling abroad so it is worth knowing that medicines aimed at alleviating the symptoms of stronger allergic reactions will also treat milder reactions if necessary.
Moderate allergic reactions can produce symptoms that spread to different parts of the body and sometimes need more urgent attention that mild reactions. Including rashes and itchiness that can spread across the body as well as dizziness and difficulty breathing, moderate symptoms are best treated with medication to avoid further accident or injury. Available as tablets, capsules, creams and liquids; Antihistamines and steroid medications reduce the swelling of the nose and throat often triggered by allergic reactions to help with congestion, eye irritation, dizziness and breathing difficulties. Rashes and itchy skin can be soothed with over-the-counter hypo-allergenic moisturising creams to avoid cracking and calamine lotions to reduce itchiness and irritation. Whilst these medications are available without a prescription, professional advice should always be sought before using as they may not be effective or suitable for your particular allergy.
Although rare, severe allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, can quickly affect the whole body and are often life-threatening. Beginning with a sudden irritation of the eyes and face before causing swelling of the throat, rashes, cramp, vomiting and diarrhoea, whilst a sudden drop in blood pressure can lead to disorientation, confusion and in some cases a debilitating feeling of dread. The reaction is so rapid and so severe that the only effective treatment for anaphylaxis is an injection of adrenaline that immediately reduces swelling and counteracts the drop in blood pressure. If you recognise the symptoms of anaphylactic shock in yourself or another, administer adrenaline if available and call for professional help immediately.
If you are aware of an allergy to substances prone to causing severe reactions, make sure you are prescribed an adrenaline injection kit and carry it with you at all times. It is also a good idea to carry a list of your allergens to prevent accidental consumption or to communicate the seriousness of the situation if you are unable to speak. However, if you have previously experienced milder allergic reactions, the best thing you can do is learn to avoid your allergens rather than treating the symptoms.
Whether you need to take note of pollen counts, avoid contact with animals or create a food allergy elimination diet with a professional, you can stop your allergies from getting in the way of your trip. If you need advice about allergies while travelling, TripMedic can arrange a consultation with a nearby doctor in your own language.