Allergies are a common condition that can affect people of all ages. They occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a harmless substance, called an allergen. Allergens can include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold, food, and insect venom.
When a person with allergies comes into contact with an allergen, their immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies bind to the allergen and trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals. Histamine and other chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Allergy symptoms can vary depending on the person and the allergen. Common symptoms include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy skin
- Swollen lips, tongue, or face
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
In severe cases, allergies can trigger a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the throat. If you think you are having an anaphylactic reaction, call 911 immediately.
There is no cure for allergies, but there are ways to manage the symptoms. Treatment options include:
- Avoiding allergens
- Over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines and decongestants
- Prescription medications, such as corticosteroids and allergy shots
- Allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a treatment that can help reduce the sensitivity to allergens over time.
If you have allergies, it is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and learn about your treatment options.
Here are some tips for managing allergies:
- Identify your allergens and avoid them as much as possible.
Keep your home clean and free of dust mites and mold.
- Bathe your pets regularly and keep them out of your bedroom.
- Take over-the-counter or prescription medications as recommended by your doctor.
- Carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen) with you at all times in case of an anaphylactic reaction.
If you have any questions or concerns about allergies, be sure to talk to your doctor.