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Allergy UK runs a series of annual awareness weeks to draw attention to the plight of the allergy sufferer. These weeks highlight the issues faced by those with allergies, and are designed to get people talking about allergies at key times throughout the year when it is most common. More than 20% of people in the UK (about 1 in 5) suffer from hay fever. National Allergy Week is set to coincide with hay fever season; a time of year when the weather becomes warmer and flowers bloom increasing the level of airborne pollen. In the case of hay fever, these allergens may be dust, animal fur/hair or pollen; pollen is the main allergen of hay fever. The symptoms of hay fever include a persistent aggravating cough, sore streaming eyes, a runny nose and sore throat. A person’s social and work life can be affected. Productivity can fall due to restless nights causing tiredness and inability to concentrate at work the following day. In more extreme cases, allergies can cause a person to remain housebound for a year or more. There are other allergies too such as those of dust, pets, medicines, nuts, fish and dairy foods like milk and eggs. An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it is a threat, like an infection. It produces antibodies to fight off the allergen, in a reaction called the "immune response". Symptoms range from runny noses, to rashes, to swelling and even death. So how can we help to look after ourselves if we have an allergy? Stay away from the allergen that affects you and ensure you take the correct medication. Most commonly this is an Antihistamine which treats allergies by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it is under attack from an allergen. Antihistamines can be taken in tablet, cream or liquid form, or as eye drops or nasal sprays. The awareness week also aims to raise awareness about other conditions including asthma and eczema whose symptoms can be triggered or made worse by allergens; a substance which can trigger an allergic reaction. For more information and support on Allergies visit www.allergyuk.org.
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