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Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
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New Releases

You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Understanding and Controlling Your Allergies

No matter what you are allergic to — pollens or pets…fragrances or foods — you suffer when symptoms arise. You’re fine one moment and then suddenly find yourself sneezing, scratching, wheezing, or worse.

In this Special Health Report, you’ll find allergy relief. The report focuses on the keys to controlling allergies and gives you expert guidance for minimizing your risks, for lessening your exposure to allergens and irritants, and for instituting swift and effectual treatment.

This report will give you an understanding of the importance of (and obstacles to) an accurate diagnosis…the one test that is quick and inexpensive…the one prone to false positives …and six you should skip.

Prepared by Harvard Medical School doctors, Understanding and Controlling Your Allergies offers a comprehensive guide to more than 60 allergy and asthma medications to help you make the most safe and beneficial choices. You’ll be briefed on new therapies and you’ll learn practical steps for reducing the most prevalent allergens in your home, yard, and elsewhere.

Plus, a Special Section looks at diagnosing and treating food allergies, from life-threatening peanut allergies to a new, tick-related red meat allergy. You’ll learn which eight foods are responsible for 90% of all food allergies and emerging ways to address celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

You can take control of your allergies. You can be healthier and happier. Order for your copy of this Special Health Report now!

Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with John J. Costa, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Medical Director for Allergy & Clinical Immunology, Brigham & Women’s Hospital. 44 pages. (2014)

  • Allergies: A growing menace
  • Why are you allergic?
    • Your genes
    • Your environment
  • What happens during an allergic reaction?
    • Immediate hypersensitivity reactions
    • Delayed hypersensitivity reactions
    • Serum sickness
    • Anaphylaxis: Immediate action required
  • Pinpointing your allergic triggers
    • Tell it like it is
    • Skin testing for immediate hypersensitivity reactions
    • Skin testing for delayed hypersensitivity reactions
    • Blood testing (RAST)
    • Food allergy testing
    • Drug challenges
    • Unproven tests
  • Controlling common allergic conditions
    • Allergic rhinitis (nose)
    • Allergic conjunctivitis (eyes)
    • Allergic asthma (lungs)
    • Eczema(skin)
    • Contact dermatitis (skin)
    • Hives (skin)
    • Angioedema (various tissues)
    • Anaphylaxis (allergic shock)
    • Drug allergy
    • Vaccine allergies
    • Seminal fluid allergies
    • Stinging insect allergies
    • Latex allergies
  • Special Section: Food allergies
  • Allergy prevention
    • Pollen
    • Molds and other fungi
    • Dealing with dust mites
    • Roaches on the run
    • Pouncing on pet dander
  • Appendix: Drugs for allergy and asthma
  • Resources
  • Glossary

If you’ve never been stung by a bee, the first time will cause pain but won’t cause an allergic reaction. For many people, however, that first sting causes the immune system to arm itself against further bee venom attacks. If so, the next time you get stung, severe allergy symptoms may appear. Here’s how it works:

The first sting: A normal reaction includes pain and swelling at the site of the sting. In some people, certain immune cells called B plasma cells produce IgE antibodies against the bee venom. The IgE antibodies stick to immune cells called mast cells. This process, called sensitization, sets the stage for an allergic reaction the next time a bee stings.

The next sting: The IgE antibodies on the mast cells bind to the bee venom, prompting the mast cells to release substances that trigger allergic symptoms and inflammation, such as swift-acting histamine, slower-acting tryptase, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes.

Bee stings can cause allergic shock (anaphylaxis). This happens when mast cells are activated and two IgE antibodies bound by two neighboring IgE receptors are cross-linked (chemically connected) by an antigen, such as bee venom protein. Once the IgE antibodies are cross-linked, reactions can occur very quickly with even a very small amount of allergen.

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