An allergy is an immune system response to a foreign substance that’s not typically harmful to the body. These foreign substances are called allergens. They can include certain foods, pollen, or pet dander.
The immune system produces substances known as antibodies. When a person has allergies, their immune system makes antibodies that identify a particular allergen, the immune system’s reaction can inflame the skin, sinus, airways or digestive system.
The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritations to anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening emergency. While most allergies can’t be cured, treatments can help relieve a person’s allergy symptoms.
Allergy symptoms, which depend on the substance involved can affect a person’s airways, sinuses and nasal passages, skin and digestive system/ Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe. In some severe cases, allergies can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Food Allergy can cause;
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat
Hay fever, or “allergic rhinitis” can cause;
- Itching of the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth
- Runny, stuffy nose
- Watery, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)
Drug allergy can cause;
- Itchy skin
- Facial swelling
An Insect Sting Allergy can cause;
- A large area of swelling (edema) at the sting site
- Itching or hives all over the body
- Cough, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath
Atopic Dermatitis, allergic condition also called eczema, can cause skin to;
- Flake or peel
Some types of allergies to foods and insect stings, can trigger a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis. A life-threatening medical emergency, anaphylaxis can cause a person to go into shock. Signs and symptoms include;
- Loss of consciousness
- A drop in blood pressure
- Severe shortness of breath
- Skin rash
- A rapid, weak pulse
- Nausea and vomiting
Causes of Allergies
Allergies have a genetic component. This means parents can pass them down to their children. However , only a general susceptibility to allergic reaction is genetic. Specific allergies aren’t passed down. For instance, if a person’s mother is allergic to shellfish, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will also have it too.
Common Types of Allergens include;
- Animal Product – these include pet dander, dust mite waste, and cockroaches.
- Drugs – penicillin and sulfa drugs are common triggers.
- Foods – wheat, nuts, milk, shellfish, and egg allergies are common.
- Insect Stings – these include bees, wasps, and mosquitos.
- Mold – airborne spores from mold can trigger a reaction.
- Plants – pollens from grass, weeds, and trees, as well as resin from plants such as poison ivy and poison oak, are very common plant allergens.
- Other Allergens – latex, often found in latex gloves and condoms, and metals like nickel are also common allergens.
Allergy treatment include;
- Allergen avoidance – the doctor will help the person take steps to identify and avoid allergy triggers.
- Medications – depending on the allergy, medications can help reduce a person’s immune system reaction and ease symptoms. The doctor might suggest over-the-counter or prescription medication in the form of pills or liquid, nasal sprays, or eyedrops.
- Immunotherapy – for severe allergies not completely relieved by other treatment, the doctor might recommend allergen immunotherapy.
- Emergency Epinephrine – if a person has severe allergy, they might need to carry an emergency epinephrine shot at all times. Given for severe allergic reactions, an epinephrine shot (Auvi-Q, EpiPen, others) can reduce symptoms until they get emergency treatment.
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