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Several tens of thousands of people in Chennai remain allergic to different type of allergens, from house-dust to pollen, but they don’t even know about it. A simple test could change that.

What am I allergic to Why thousands dont know the answer despite suffering from an allergy
Monday, July 01, 2019 - 14:44


It’s never more than a few minutes, but those strenuous moments of heavy sneezing every morning would turn Rajesh’s (name changed) day around for the worse. There are days when he would wake up sneezing, brush his teeth sneezing and read his morning news amidst it, and it would finally stop when he had a sip of his coffee. By then, his day could have been very well ruined, thanks to the sneezing.

For years, however, Rajesh’s “morning sneeze” went unaddressed. He had a family history of asthma, which paid him a visit every now and then, and he was easily susceptible to a cold even in his hometown Chennai. He pinned it down to genetics and just dealt with it, without getting it diagnosed. What he needed was a simple allergy test, to identify the exact cause of his morning allergies, but he never got around to it.

Rajesh is one of the millions of people across the world, and perhaps several tens of thousands in Chennai, who have an allergic reaction to a substance found commonly around us, but still don’t know what that substance is. There is a simple reason for that - they just don't get it tested. “There are about 300 million people across the world who have allergic rhinitis, and about 200 million for who it is concomitant with asthma,” points out Dr Krishna Kumar, Senior ENT Consultant and HOD, at Apollo Hospital, Chennai. Studies say that one in seven people in Chennai could be suffering from serious allergy. “What’s unfortunate is that people choose to suffer from it but do not even know what they are allergic to,” Dr Krishna Kumar says. Rajesh is a classic example. Till today, he doesn’t know what exactly causes the allergic reaction in him, he says. “I am 30 years old now, and somehow I have just let it go unaddressed,” he says.

Undiagnosed, but dangerous  

Experts point out that the reason allergic rhinitis, which is our allergic response to allergens like pollen or dust, remains undiagnosed or untreated is because it is usually non-life-threatening, so people tend to ignore it. “But that does not mean it cannot impact our lives,” Dr Krishna Kumar says.

The common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing, itchy or scratchy throats, irate or watery eyes, and in some cases extreme fatigue and headache. The allergy could be of two types, acute or chronic, each of which can be mild, moderate or severe. “Those who have a severe chronic allergy will be suffering a lot,” says the doctor. In some cases, exposure to the allergens in food could cause a serious allergic reaction.

The allergen sparking the reaction could be any of the hundreds of particles we live with, from house-dust and dust-mites to fungal spores and pollen. It could also be in our food, although food allergies are uncommon in India. Humidity, air pollution or even certain types of perfumes can cause allergic rhinitis in people.

“We test for over 200 such allergens,” says Dr Krishna Kumar, who has just launched a new allergy test at the Apollo Hospital in OMR in Chennai. With the Allergy Skin Prick Test, which is followed by treatment, like immunotherapy, those with allergies can live better, says the doctor.

Allergy Skin Prick Test

“There are several tests for allergies, and the skin prick test is the gold standard. It is a very simple test. We just scratch the skin surface with allergens, and we will know the result in 15-20 mins,” Dr Krishna Kumar explains.

During the allergy skin test, your skin is exposed to suspected allergy-causing substances (allergens) and is then observed for signs of an allergic reaction. The allergic reaction would immediately help the doctors identify the nature of the allergy. Along with your medical history, allergy tests may be able to confirm whether or not a particular substance you touch, breathe or eat is causing symptoms. Emergency medications and stand-by emergency physician will be available if required.

Your allergy treatment plan may include medications, immunotherapy, changes to your work or home environment, or dietary changes. “Earlier immunotherapy was available only through injections. But now, in the recent years, sublingual therapy has evolved and become more accessible, in which the drug is placed under the tongue of the patient,” Dr Krishna Kumar says.

Ask your doctor to explain anything about your diagnosis or treatment that you don't understand. With test results that identify your allergens and a treatment plan to help you take control, you'll be able to reduce or eliminate allergy signs and symptoms.

This article was created by TNM Brand Studio in association with Apollo Hospitals, and not by TNM Editorial.