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Allergic skin conditions: what you need to know

Allergic skin conditions

Allergic skin conditions: what you need to know

The skin is your largest organ, so you should take care of it as such. While we would all love healthy, clear skin, for some this is a near impossibility thanks to our allergies. Skin allergies can exacerbate conditions like urticaria or dermatitis. At their worst, they can also lead to asthmatic reactions, putting your life on the line. It’s estimated that 60% of us suffer from a skin condition.

Dealing with allergies is difficult enough, but when you suffer from a skin problem, it is incredibly challenging. But what are the most common conditions and what causes them?

Atopic dermatitis

Belonging to the same group as eczema, atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease. Although it is common during infancy and childhood, not all sufferers will grow out of it and will continue to deal with the condition throughout adulthood. It’s caused when the skin isn’t able to properly retain moisture, causing the skin to dry out and blister, crack, and bleed. The skin is itchy, hot, and inflamed.

Unlike urticaria, atopic dermatitis doesn’t clear up overnight and is often a lifelong affliction. Mainly because it is a genetic condition, something which separates it from the similar contact dermatitis. Family members suffering from an allergic condition can even pass it on to their children. Triggers typically include extreme cold or hot weather, and chemicals like those found in soaps, detergents, and cosmetics.

Urticaria

Sometimes referred to as hives, weals, or welts, urticaria can cause the skin to itch, red bumps to form, and inflammation to rise. It usually forms on patches of the skin, but it can spread further across the body. Although it usually clears after 24 hours, it can affect the skin for around six weeks. We call it ‘acute urticaria’.

It can also manifest in chronic urticaria which causes the condition to last over several years. High levels of histamine in the body are a primary cause of the condition. When histamine, as well as other chemicals, are released into the skin after exposure to allergens, the blood vessels open, causing the skin to become blotchy and inflamed.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed, we highly recommend that you get tested for allergies. By doing so, you will be able to start your journey to living an itch-free life. Find out what environmental or chemical triggers you might have.

If you think you might be suffering from allergies, why not order one of our home testing kits today? Find out once and for all what’s causing your skin to itch. Request an allergy test from us or visit our website.

Plant allergies: causes, symptoms, and solutions

Plant allergies

Plant allergies: causes, symptoms, and solutions

Plant allergies are extremely common and affect 13 million people in the UK. It’s also referred to as allergic rhinitis – more commonly known as hay fever. You might think because we’re in winter you can escape the effects of hay fever. But you’d be surprised by how plant allergies affect your day to day life.

Causes

The cause of hay fever is pollen, which can create havoc for sufferers all year round. It typically hits hardest during the spring and summer months due to the higher pollen count. As flowers start to bloom and grass starts to thrive, some people have to live with teary eyes!

With plant allergies, the body perceives some substances as dangerous, and in response overproduces allergic antibodies (IgE). This leads to symptoms such as:

  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • A runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Blocked sinuses
  • Fatigue

Similar symptoms are also caused by other allergies such as dust, pet dander, and mould.

Common triggers of hayfever often include grass, trees, and weeds, with grass pollen being a common allergen between May to July, trees February to June, and weeds June to September. You might not even be able to escape it around Christmas time!

Treatment

Although there isn’t a cure for hay fever, there are several precautions you can take to reduce your symptoms. The easiest is to avoid contact with plants high in pollen. If this isn’t doable then taking precautions such as covering up and going outside during the hours when there is a reduced pollen count can help. Weather reports will usually have an accompanying pollen count so you can check.

It’s also recommended that you take antihistamines and apply eye drops and avoid having flowers in your house. If you’re a pet owner, be wary of letting them back in the house after being outdoors. If it’s the summer and you’re at a BBQ, avoid the smoke as it can heighten the side effects of hay fever. It might also be a tip to keep in your back pocket around fireworks this New Year’s.

If you find that you experience any of the symptoms listed but haven’t been allergy tested, we highly recommend doing so. If you have a family member with allergies like asthma or eczema, you’re even more at risk of suffering from hay fever or other plant-based allergies. Finding out whether or not you have hay fever is a step in the right direction on your journey to living as allergy free as possible.

Request an allergy test from us today to find out once and for all whether you have an allergy you didn’t know about. Say no to itchy eyes and a runny nose and begin your pollen free life today. Contact us today for more information.

Dummies and allergies: what’s the link?

Dummies and allergies

Dummies and allergies: what’s the link?

As a parent, you’re probably already keenly aware of germs and dirt coming into contact with your child. In our clean-conscious culture, we want to ensure our children don’t contract anything potentially harmful.

Picture the scenario: your little angel is in a devilish mood. After the toys and the drink the,y resort to throwing their dummy on the floor. You go to pick it up, and you do one of two things. You clean it under the tap or with a wipe, or you stick it in your mouth.

If that second option sounds wrong or unhealthy, you might want to think again. Some studies suggest that this might be one way to reduce the risk of allergies later in your child’s life.

Research

A study of 128 women recorded preferred methods of cleaning dummies. Allergist Dr Eliane Abou-Jaoude, MD, ACAAI member, was a lead author on the study conducted by Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. Only 12% of those mums reportedly cleaned it with their own mouths. Interestingly, the study found that these children had lower levels of IgE.

IgE is an antibody in the body that is responsible for allergic responses. Higher IgE means that your child is more likely to develop allergies and conditions such as asthma. Of the 41% who sterilised the dummies and the 72% who used soap and water to clean them, it was found to have a negligible effect on the IgE levels in their children.

How does it work?

One explanation for this is that by not thoroughly cleaning the dummy, microorganisms that help with the development of the immune system remain, which in turns helps to protect against allergies later in life.

However, we recommend taking this study with a pinch of salt as far more research is required. You should still clean any dummies thoroughly if it has come into contact with bacteria or dirt. There are no adverse effects if you do, whereas the same can’t necessarily be said for cleaning it in your own mouth.

Allergies are a serious health problem, and whether or not we are one day able to lower IgE levels, allergy tests are critical. Food allergies alone affect 3-6% of children in the UK.

We highly recommend allergy tests as early on as possible to avoid symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and swelling of the mouth. In serious cases, there is also a risk of anaphylaxis. It’s critical to have your child tested for allergies if yourself or other family members have allergies or a condition such as eczema or asthma as this is a sign that your child is more likely to have it too.

At the London Allergy & Immunology Centre, we can help to identify allergy triggers your child might suffer from. Contact us today to find out how we can help you and your child. If you want to read more about the study mentioned in this blog, please click here.

Anisakis simplex: what is it?

Anisakis simplex

Anisakis simplex: what is it?

An allergy to seafood such as shellfish is common, but it isn’t always that simple. There’s a small chance that something else might be the cause of your allergic reaction, known as anisakis simplex. Although this can make individuals suffer from symptoms similar to food poisoning, it can induce allergic responses in others. The infection itself is called anisakiasis, or herring worm disease.

What is it?

Simply put, anisakis is a parasitic worm that infects marine fish and shellfish, but unfortunately, through our consumption of seafood, it can go on to infect people too, known as anisakiasis. A common parasite in fish, cases of anisakiasis in humans have increased over the last 50 years. It has been more frequent in Japan where raw fish consumption is high.

The infections can happen when we eat the fish, causing inflammation in parts of the body including the oesophagus, stomach, or intestine. The easiest way to avoid it is to stop eating fish altogether, but that isn’t likely to happen. Restaurants with high food hygiene ratings are more likely to be safer, so do your research before you dine out.

Symptoms

Along with those mentioned above, several symptoms can suggest you might have a case of anisakiasis, including:

  • Hives
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting

Individuals may also experience a tickling or tingling sensation in their mouth, and possibly the throat, after eating fish; this is a sign that the worm itself may still be in your mouth. Coughing this up before swallowing may help to prevent infection.

Allergies

Sometimes it can cause allergic reactions. It can be difficult to diagnose an anisakis allergy as people will confuse it with a seafood allergy. Any allergic reaction should be treated seriously as it can lead to anaphylaxis. If this is the case, seek help immediately. Avoiding seafood might be a suitable solution if you suffer from the symptoms after eating seafood, even if not caused by the simplex.

If you react to a fish you’ve eaten before, this could be a sign of anisakis allergy. Alternatively, you may have developed a late on-set allergy to fish or histamine poisoning. Histamine is sometimes present in fish such as tuna or mackerel, and the symptoms are similar to fish or simplex allergies.

If you think you have the condition, it’s critical to visit your GP to ensure that you don’t suffer from long-term effects such as small bowel obstruction.

Although you can find anisakis simplex in countries such as Japan who consume large amounts of raw fish, it is also present in the UK. Indeed, it has been reported in five different continents.

To prevent fish allergies or simplex infections, it is critical to avoid consuming poorly cooked fish, shellfish, and squid. We highly recommend being tested for allergies to take further precautions.

Request an allergy test from us today to put you on the right path to living allergy free. Don’t risk critical side effects like anaphylaxis, contact us today for more information to find out how we can help you.

Stranger than fiction: strange allergies you might not know about

Strange allergies

Stranger than fiction: strange allergies you might not know about

Allergies can affect different people in different ways, and there are plenty of common allergies we all know about. You’ll probably be familiar with hay fever, asthma, and eczema, but what about the strange allergies in the world? From exercise to water, there are plenty of surprising things an individual can be allergic to.

Exercise

All allergies can feel overwhelming if there’s a high risk of anaphylaxis, the life or death reaction to a trigger. But what if exercise-induced anaphylaxis? Unfortunately, this is a reality for some people and can trigger through physical activity. Usually caused by higher intensity exercise, in rare cases it can lead to an anaphylactic shock.

Symptoms of the allergy include hives, inflamed skin, and fatigue. Although these symptoms are uncomfortable, they are considered to be minor. Severe symptoms include difficulty to breathe or swallow, and wheezing, along with the aforementioned anaphylaxis. Treatment for the allergy is usually an EpiPen.

Water

Water allergy (or aquagenic urticaria) although rare, with only an estimated 35 cases in the world, is a real thing and is difficult to navigate as humans require water to stay hydrated and wash. In as little as 60 seconds after exposure to water, the skin can break out in a rash.

It is usually inflamed and itchy, and can cause the skin to feel uncomfortably hot. It can even be triggered by sweat or tears. Although treatment in the form of antihistamine is common, there is only so far this will go in cooling the effects of this awkward allergy. Unfortunately, the cause is a mystery, but it’s thought to be a reaction to substances in the water.

Sunlight

Believe it or not, some individuals are allergic to sunlight. While the UK try to soak up every sunbeam come summer, for some people this isn’t possible. The condition, known as polymorphic light eruption, is a surprisingly common allergy that results in itchy rashes that can last to up to three days and can take two weeks to heal. Estimates say the allergy affects 10-15% of the UK.

The cause of the allergy is possibly due to the UV light altering a substance in the skin which causes the immune system to react negatively. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for the disorder and treatment includes sunscreen, avoiding the sun especially between 11 am to 3 pm, and wearing long sleeves and trousers.

The odds of you having one of these strange allergies is extremely low, but you never know what you could be allergic to. We highly recommended testing for allergies so that you don’t risk any of the symptoms mentioned, allowing you to live comfortably.

Don’t risk it; request an allergy test today to start your allergy-free journey, or visit our website to find out more about allergies, intolerances, and skin conditions.

Why everyone should be tested for allergies

Allergy tests

Why everyone should be tested for allergies

There are countless allergens in the environment and although the public has a general awareness of allergies, they, unfortunately, don’t know enough. A lot of us don’t really have a deeper understanding of how exactly allergies work. Allergens go beyond the common pollen allergies or a sneeze when around a pet dog. Often times allergens are hiding in plain sight, part of common products in everyday life such as plasters or medicine. It’s why allergy tests are so critical. We shouldn’t just expect hives, runny noses, or severe side effects like anaphylaxis as the norm. There’s a lot more to us underneath the surface.

Culture

Allergies can often go ignored and are not talked about enough. This has become evident in the way we live in the contemporary world. Many individuals opt to go gluten-free or avoid certain chemicals. While this is a personal choice and not to be judged, it has inadvertently created a culture in which allergens and intolerances are being undermined.

However, these trends could be seen to bring things like gluten allergies to the forefront of the public’s minds. Even 10 years ago not many people knew about the prevalence of gluten and gluten intolerances. It has no doubt led to more people realising they are living with a condition they didn’t realise they had. And that still may not be enough.

Risk

A factor that isn’t highlighted enough is that some allergens are often something we wouldn’t consider to be a risk. With events like Bonfire Night, Christmas, and New Year’s coming up, there’ll be a lot of fireworks. Although firework displays are fun they aren’t always fun for those with conditions like asthma, as well as those with respiratory allergies, especially if the air is damp as smoke can linger for longer.

Reactions

Another significant component of allergies to highlight is that a reaction doesn’t always occur immediately. This means that without knowing it you may experience a severe reaction later on in the day. Without knowledge about your allergies, you risk putting yourself in danger of an anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly.

Age

It’s also critical to highlight that individuals are vulnerable to developing up an allergy at any age. Even if you didn’t react at all to pollen as a child, you might be struck with a sudden case of a runny nose and watery eyes in your mid-thirties. And with more chemicals being used to grow our food and used in our cosmetics, allergy tests are essential.

Allergies need to be taken seriously and, with the right knowledge and tools, you lower the risk tenfold of danger if you are aware of your allergies. You’ll be aware of what to avoid and what to do in an emergency. We highly recommend allergy tests as soon as possible.

Request an allergy test today or contact us for more details. Find out once and for all if you really do have an allergy or not and start living a more comfortable future.

Everything you need to know about airborne allergies

Airborne allergies

Everything you need to know about airborne allergies

There are several types of allergies and with recent news about cafes and restaurants not fully labelling their products with the allergens they contain, the public is learning more about allergies. A lot of people are probably aware of allergies such as gluten or dairy, but what about lesser-known allergens? Airborne allergies can cause a multitude of symptoms; some are as minor as fatigue to the more irritable symptoms like itchy and watery eyes. Unfortunately, allergies can cause continuous discomfort throughout an individual’s day. Some of these might surprise you as they include everyday objects that are otherwise unassuming. These include:

All allergies can be extremely dangerous if left untested.

Allergies such as these ones are caused by the body’s immune system treating allergens as a foreign substance. In response to this, the body reacts by producing large amounts of Immunoglobulin E (IgE). For different allergies, there are different types of IgE. These antibodies stick to the body’s mast cells which are a type of blood cell. This reaction, combined with the release of chemicals like histamine, can cause inflammation.

If you continually experience any of the following symptoms, we highly recommend requesting an allergy test:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Itchy throat
  • Skin rashes

Causes

If you suddenly start sneezing when you’re around allergens such as pet hair or pollen, it can be caused by a lack of exposure. If you’ve lived your life in a city with minimal plant life for example, suddenly being in a pollen-filled environment may trigger hay fever.

In some cases, you may have always had an allergy present. But it may have been so minor that you didn’t even notice as it caused minimal discomfort. It’s also possible that the allergy increased during adulthood.

Another reason may be that little exposure to bacteria and dirt may increase vulnerability to allergies as the body suppresses the natural development of the immune system. So when our immune system does come into contact with unclean environments, the body overreacts.

Management

There are several ways to manage allergies including:

  • Avoiding triggering environments, ingredients, and other allergens
  • Taking an antihistamine and using nasal sprays
  • Regularly cleaning your home

As highlighted by the recent incidents at Pret A Manger and Wagamama, it’s extremely critical to find out whether you have allergies or not. One in five people in the UK have at least one allergy, if not more, which illustrates just how common the issue is.

If you are experiencing symptoms of an allergy or intolerance, it’s best to find out the cause as soon as possible to reduce discomfort.

If you think you might be suffering from allergies but have never had them diagnosed, why not order one of our home testing kits today? Find out once and for all what’s causing you to sneeze and cough. Request an allergy test with us today or visit our website.

Contact dermatitis: what you need to know

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis: what you need to know

With the winter months approaching, contact dermatitis can take a turn for the worse, with the cold weather affecting dry skin even more. If you have dermatitis or think you might, this is what you need to know about the skin condition.

What is it?

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that is triggered by allergens, specific chemicals, or certain substances. The most obvious and primary way to identify eczema is dry, itchy skin. Unlike other forms of eczema, the affected skin will usually clear up if contact with a trigger is stopped.

Symptoms

Other than dryness or itchiness, other symptoms can include:

  • Blistering
  • Bumps
  • Discharge from the skin
  • Scaly skin
  • A ‘tight’ feeling in the skin

Differences

Before we delve into the causes of dermatitis, it’s critical to establish the differences between irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.

Both conditions cause the skin to itch, dry out, and turn red, but they are also completely different. Irritant contact dermatitis is usually more widespread and, unlike allergic contact dermatitis, doesn’t involve the immune system so isn’t an allergy. As its name suggests, irritant contact dermatitis occurs due to exposure to irritants. However, allergic contact dermatitis is more localised and can cause the skin to blister and swell.

There is also a third type called photocontact dermatitis. This is far less common than the other types and occurs when the active ingredients in a skin product are exposed to the sun which can lead to the skin being irritated.

Causes

Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis might include:

  • Jewellery
  • Latex
  • Perfumes or fragrances

Common causes of irritant contact dermatitis might include:

  • Strong chemical products like bleach
  • Detergents
  • Soap

If you think you suffer from contact dermatitis, the following points are essential to think about:

  • When did it first start?
  • Are you aware of specific triggers?
  • Have you used any new products?

Patch test

If you’ve been using new products that may be causing your skin to react negatively, try eliminating them from your routine and see if this makes a difference and clears your skin. Any new products you do use, be sure to check the ingredients list and do a patch test before using.

A patch test can be carried out at home. All you have to do is apply a small amount of product to a ‘patch’ of your body (such as the inside of your elbow) and after a few hours, look for any signs of irritation. If your skin reacts, you’ll notice some itching or swelling in the area you applied the product too. Patch testing can help you identify which chemicals are causing your skin to react.

We highly recommend that you have an allergy test to determine whether or not you have dermatitis, and what your triggers are. The skin can become easily dried out and irritable during cold weather, so finding out as soon as possible what is affecting your skin means that you can seek out treatment.

If your skin feels dry, itchy, and red, it might suggest you have allergies or a skin condition that you didn’t even think about. Why not request an allergy test today or speak to our experts, so that you can live irritant-free.

Seasonal allergies: why you need the flu vaccination

Should you get a flu vaccination

Seasonal allergies: why you need the flu vaccination

With winter quickly approaching, the public is already suffering from runny noses, coughs, and colds. But sometimes these symptoms can be more than the common cold; they could be signs of the flu. But what exactly is the flu and how does it differ from your run of the mill common cold?

What is it?

The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory illness that is most common during the winter. There are three types: A, B, and C.

  • Type A: This type of flu is the culprit behind significant outbreaks that occur every few years. Unlike B and C, A type flu infects both humans and animals, such as wild birds.
  • Type B: Less common than A and only found in humans.
  • Type C: Not as dangerous as B and A, and unlikely to cause an epidemic.

Although colds and the flu are both contagious and have similar side effects, the difference is that you may experience a fever, body aches, and exhaustion for a prolonged length of time with the flu. Another sign that you may have the flu is that, unlike a common illness, it can seem to come on out of nowhere.

Other symptoms include:

  • Dry, chesty cough
  • A sore throat
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or being sick

At risk groups

Although plenty of rest, water, and pain medication can help to treat your flu, it’s recommended that the public have the flu vaccination. Especially if you have allergies.

People with allergies may have a weakened immune system, making them an at-risk group. Other groups that the vaccination is recommended to include:

  • People suffering from chronic illnesses
  • Those who are pregnant
  • People over the age of 65

Allergies

Unfortunately, the flu vaccination isn’t safe for everyone. As the vaccination is made using egg, this may put people who have an egg allergy at risk of an allergic reaction.

If you have allergies, be sure to talk to your GP before getting the vaccination so that you aren’t at risk. If you haven’t yet been diagnosed with allergies, but want to get the flu vaccination, an allergy test may be a good idea so that you can rule out further illness, especially if you suspect that you have an allergy to vaccination ingredients like eggs.

In the past, individuals with an egg allergy were discouraged from having the flu vaccination, but experts say that might not be the best course of action. If you’re concerned, it’s best to discuss your allergy with your GP. Under the care of a professional, a flu vaccination may still be the right option if the allergy isn’t life-threatening.

To prevent the spread of the flu, you should wash your hands regularly, use tissues when you sneeze or cough, and avoid being around people with flu or cold symptoms.

The winter can be stressful enough without allergies and conditions like asthma or eczema being added to the mix. To protect yourself, we highly recommend allergy tests; this can help to determine whether symptoms are allergens or the flu, as symptoms such as runny noses or itchy eyes are common in both.

If you think that you have allergies, why not test yourself at home? Request a home test kit or contact one of our consultants today to find out more.

Fructose intolerances: what you need to know

Fructose allergies

Fructose intolerances: what you need to know

Sugar is everywhere; it’s hard to escape. For people who want to cut it out of their diet, it’s a challenge. For people who are intolerant to, say, fructose it’s that much harder. It’s difficult to find food that doesn’t contain the ingredient; it seems to be in everything. It’s a pain and can make eating everyday foods like fruit difficult. It can also cause concern if you are a parent of a child with the intolerance. So why does it happen?

What is it?

Fructose itself is a natural sugar but is often combined with glucose in sugar-based products. Think honey, syrup, and fruit juice. Fructose is a simple sugar that usually makes up about 50% of table sugar. The other 50% is glucose. When in your system, fructose is converted by the liver before being turned into glucose.

Glucose is an energy source for the body and can be utilised for energy by many parts of the body, whereas fructose can only be utilised by the liver which can cause a buildup of fat. This can be particularly overwhelming if you aren’t able to consume fructose. If you see added sugar under the ingredients, then it’s likely to be fructose.

Malabsorption

Fructose is a FODMAP, simple short-chain carbohydrates that some people can’t digest. They’re in fruit, vegetables, milk, and grains. Consuming these foods leads to symptoms like bloating, stomach pains, and diarrhoea.  If this sounds like you, then you might have a case of fructose malabsorption.

Why?

Fructose Malabsorption (FM) is fairly common – 1 in 3 people have it. It happens when the intestines cannot absorb fructose properly. Left undigested, it’s sent to the colon where bacteria eats it away. This causes your intestine to produce gases which lead to the symptoms above.

Symptoms

If the FM is severe, it can lead to problems like inflammation, stress, and not being able to break down processed foods. It’s suggested that it can also lead to mental illness due to the lower level of tryptophan. People who have a gut problem are likely to be predisposed to FM.

Intolerance

Hereditary Fructose Intolerance (HFI) on the other hand is a lot more severe than malabsorption. The genetic disorder is a metabolic disease caused by the absence of the enzyme aldolase B. The deficiency of this enzyme causes fructose to react badly and cause hypoglycemia. It can also lead to a build-up of harmful substances in the liver.

Symptoms

Similar to FM, HFI symptoms also include stomach pains and bloating. However, the condition, if left undiagnosed or untreated, can cause life-threatening side effects such as kidney failure, liver failure, seizures, and even death.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid a worst case scenario, so you can just enjoy life. If you have noticed that you suffer from any of the symptoms after eating specific foods, we recommend you consult with a doctor right away. From there, you can make food swaps so that you can enjoy eating without risking side effects.

If you think you might be suffering from an intolerance but have never had it diagnosed, why not get in touch? Find out once and for all what’s causing your stomach pains and book an appointment with us.

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