Conventional care

Allergies are investigated by means of skin-testing. A small amount of the suspected allergen is pin-pricked under the skin, or placed beneath a patch resembling an adhesive bandage, and the reaction is monitored. Blood tests can measure the reactions of antibodies and allergens that have been highlighted by dyes. Elimination and challenge, whereby a suspected irritant is removed from the diet or the surroundings for a while and then reintroduced, is another method of allergy identification.

Once an allergen has been identified, the effects of the antibody-antigen reaction can be relieved, using mainly antihistamine drugs. These block the effects of histamine, thus preventing allergic symptoms from developing. Other drugs include sodium chromoglycate, used mainly to treat asthma, and corticosteroids. Allergic skin reactions can be treated with ointments containing corticosteroids. Drugs may

Mast cell

Allergen encounters antibody

Histamine released in response to allergen rf\

Allergen encounters antibody

Histamine released in response to allergen

ANTIBODIES AT WORK When under threat from harmful substances—or antigens—the body produces antibodies that attach themselves to special immune cells (mast cells) and can destroy invading particles. An allergic reaction occurs when large numbers of antibodies are activated in response to harmless, misidentified substances called allergens. This triggers the release of histamine, causing unpleasant side-effects.

be combined with vitamin supplements, reflexology hypnotherapy and desensitization, the last of which involves the gradual introduction of the source of irritation in order to increase a person's level of tolerance until they no longer have an allergic reaction.

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