Having to leave the beach to go to the hospital due to an allergy attack can be a holiday nightmare, especially for those with children. Allergic reactions can be hard to predict and you tend to be more prone to them during summer travel and vacations. What can be done, most of the time, is to be alert to anticipate the nearest health service and call it as soon as the first symptoms appear.
An allergic reaction can be understood as a hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system to contact with a substance.
The body recognizes this compound as an aggressor and creates an exaggerated defensive reaction, with damaging symptoms, explains Clovis Galvao, an allergist and immunologist at the University of the South Pacific School of Medicine.
The heat of summer and the evasion of routine, which entails contact with new environments and materials, can increase the risk of suffering an allergic reaction. “In summer, we are more exposed to certain factors, such as insect bites, the use of different cosmetics, and unusual foods,” says Galvao.
What can Cause an Allergic Reaction?
In general, it is not possible to say what may or may not cause an allergic reaction, since this depends on the organism of each person. However, there are some compounds that are more commonly allergens.
This is the case of shellfish, which are often not part of the daily diet. Milk, eggs, soy, and nuts are other foods that can cause allergic reactions. According to Galvao, around 70% to 80% of food allergies can be attributed to them.
Beauty products like sunscreens, makeup, and moisturizers can also cause a skin allergy called contact dermatitis. During vacations and exposure to the sun, events can be intensified by the tendency to use a greater variety of products than those consumed daily, and also by exposing some subjects to the sun when they should not.
Insect bites are another common cause of allergic reactions. In the case of sucking insects, people are often allergic to compounds in their saliva, and reactions tend to be limited to the skin, without causing serious conditions.
Stinging insects, such as bees and wasps, tend to trigger more severe reactions due to contact with the venom. In these cases, reports Galvão, treatment with vaccines can be done after exposure, to prevent recurrence. However, this is not a preventive treatment and it is not widely available to the population either.
How to Avoid Allergic Reactions?
Allergic reactions are difficult to avoid, as there is no way to predict what might cause someone to have an allergic reaction prior to exposure to this compound. Some people may be allergic to substances they have taken before without showing any symptoms.
Alex Lacerda, a member of the anaphylaxis scientific section of the Brazilian Society of Allergy and Immunology, says there may be a genetic factor, but that’s not definitive. “We don’t recommend avoiding that substance just because the parents are allergic, unless there are some suspicious symptoms.”
When the allergy is confirmed, the important thing is to avoid contact with that compound and continue to follow up with the specialist, in order to have an action plan in case of exposure, which will vary from person to person.
However, when there is no known allergy, it is not necessary to avoid any compound. What you can do is look for safer options.
In the case of cosmetics, for example, it is recommended to use products from recognized brands, tested and approved by Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency).
What to do in Case of an Allergic Reaction?
The most important thing to deal with a possible allergic reaction is to be attentive to the first symptoms. Redness, swelling, and itching are common manifestations. Lacerda points out that it is important to look for a healthy unit as soon as possible when these symptoms are noticed, especially when they appear and increase rapidly.
The development of an allergic reaction can lead to anaphylaxis. This condition is characterized by the presence of symptoms in more than one organ. In some cases, there are airway abnormalities and cardiovascular symptoms, eventually leading to anaphylactic shock, a sudden drop in blood pressure that can be fatal.
An allergic reaction can be treated with corticosteroids, antihistamines, and epinephrine injections. However, self-medication is not recommended.
“There are various types of allergic reaction mechanisms,” warns Leserda.
Each of these mechanisms is managed differently, and incorrect treatment can exacerbate the condition. Antihistamine pills known as anti-allergy do not treat contact dermatitis, for example. Therefore, it is important that a health professional determine the reaction in order to recommend the correct treatment.