What are the risk factors and complications for allergies?
The risk of an allergy developing may be increased if the patient:
- Has a family history of allergies or asthma – Should one have a history of family members with allergies or asthma, their risk of developing allergies is significantly higher. Common familial allergies include hives, eczema and hay fever. The hereditary factor of allergies is not a certainty. However, the theory is that should one’s parents have allergies, he or she may be more prone to them too. Food allergies have been pinpointed to a specific gene that can be passed from a parent to a child. This offers solid evidence that genes play a vital role in allergies and their development.
- Asthma is a condition where one’s airways are inflamed and begin to swell and narrow – making it difficult to breathe. It is a chronic condition of the lungs. Allergic asthma is the most prevalent form of asthma and is often triggered by an allergy to pollen, dust, pet dander, things that come into contact with the skin or even food.
- Is a child – This is due to the fact that children are more prone to developing allergies as a result of their immune system exposure having been more limited than that of an adult’s. Because of this, children can sometimes outgrow their allergies as they get older and their immune systems develop.
- Has asthma or another existing allergic reaction – As mentioned, asthma is a chronic lung condition resulting in inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Should a patient already have asthma, their risk of developing an allergy is heightened as asthma can provoke the symptoms of allergies and vice versa. In addition, having one kind of allergic reaction or condition can also make a person more susceptible to reacting adversely to other substances (allergens), due to the fact that their body has previously created antibodies to fight these and the immune system already feels threatened.
Having allergies can increase the risk of other medical issues, including:
- Asthma – As previously noted, having asthma can increase one’s risk of developing an allergy. However, the effect works both ways. If one has an allergy, they are more likely to develop asthma. In a majority of cases, asthma is triggered by exposure to an allergen in the surrounding environment. This is known as allergy-induced asthma.
- Anaphylaxis – This refers to a severe reaction to allergens. The most common triggers are medications such as penicillin, food such as nuts and shellfish and insect stings.
- Fungal complications of the lungs or sinuses – The risk of contracting such conditions, often referred to as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis or allergic fungal sinusitis, is increased when the patient has a pre-existing allergy. Aspergillosis is an allergic reaction, infection or fungal growth which is caused by a fungus known as Aspergillus fungus. This fungus is normally found growing on dead leaves or decaying vegetation.
- Infections of the lungs or ears as well as sinusitis – The risk of contracting these conditions is higher is when the patient has hay fever or allergic asthma as the sites of infection are already inflamed.