Overview

Allergy symptoms include itchy eyes and skin, sneezing, nasal congestion, wheezing, and rash. Seasonal allergies result from grass, weed, tree pollen, or molds. Cat and dog dander allergies are common. Food allergies include peanut or milk.

What is an Allergy?

An allergy refers to an exaggerated reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. It is exaggerated because these foreign substances are usually seen by the body as harmless and no response occurs in non- allergic people. Allergic people’s bodies recognize the foreign substance and one part of the immune system is turned on. Allergy-producing substances are called “allergens.” Examples of allergens include pollen’s, dust mite, molds, dander’s, and foods. To understand the language of allergy it is important to remember that allergens are substances that are foreign to the body and can cause an allergic reaction in certain people.

What Happens During an Allergic Reaction?

It starts when you come into contact with a trigger that you inhale, swallow, or get on your skin. In response, your body starts to make a protein called IgE, which grabs onto the allergen. Then histamine and other chemicals get released into the blood. That causes the symptoms you notice.

What Are the Symptoms?

Your symptoms depend on how you’re exposed — through the air, your skin, food, or through an insect sting. If you’ve got a nasal or skin allergy, common symptoms include:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, runny nose
  • Rashes
  • Feeling tired or ill
  • Hives (a rash with raised red patches)
Food allergies can also cause stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.

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Diagnosing and Treating Allergic Reactions

An allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, is best qualified to treat allergic diseases. To determine if you have an allergy, your allergist will take a thorough medical history and do a physical exam. He or she may perform allergy skin testing, or sometimes blood testing, to determine which substance is causing your allergy.

Once your allergy triggers are identified, your allergist can help you establish a treatment plan that is right for you. In many instances, allergy immunotherapy in the form of shots or tablets is an effective, cost-efficient long term treatment approach.

While there is not yet a cure for allergic disease, your allergist can properly diagnose the problem and develop a plan to help you feel better and live better.

Healthy Tips

  • Allergy symptoms are the result of a chain reaction that starts in your immune system.
  • If you have a family history of allergies, you are at a much higher risk of developing allergic disease.
  • The types of allergic disease include allergic rhinitis (hay fever), eczema, hives, asthma and food allergy.
  • Food, medications, insect stings and exposure to latex can trigger anaphylaxis, which is a serious allergic reaction that happens very quickly and in some instances may be fatal. If you (or anyone you are with) begin to show the symptoms of anaphylaxis, call for medical help to get to the closest emergency room.
  • Talk to your allergist about the many treatments available to help you feel better.

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