Allergies are one the most common of medical conditions, affecting approximately 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children in the United States. Allergies are the result of the immune system responding to substances known as “allergens” that may enter or come in contact with the body. When someone is allergic to an allergen, their immune system is oversensitized to that substance.
Our immune systems exist to protect us from invasive foreign substances that could be a threat, such as viruses or bacteria. Normally, our bodies recognize that substances like pollen or dust are not harmful, and don’t respond to them. However, people with allergies respond to allergic triggers the same way they would respond to an invasive germ, creating an allergic reaction.
Examples of allergens include pollens, dust, dust mites, molds, animal proteins, foods, insect bites or stings, and even medications.
Who Develops Allergies?
Allergies can develop in adults and in children. While some people may outgrow their childhood allergies as they age, developing new allergic reactions in adulthood is common. You’re especially likely to develop allergies if you have a family history of asthma or allergies. Repeated exposure to an allergen can also be the first step toward developing an allergy.
Symptoms Of Allergies
While allergy symptoms can vary depending on the allergen causing them, the most common immune system response is inflammation and irritation. Allergy symptoms may affect a person’s skin, sinuses or nasal passages, their airways, their eyes, or even their gut and digestive system. The following are common allergy symptoms that may occur after someone inhales or comes in contact with something they are allergic to:
- ÂÂItching around and watering of the eyes
- An itchy, runny nose
- Rashes or hives
- Wheezing during exercise or other activities
- A personal history of asthma
Some allergens may also cause additional symptoms. Food allergy symptoms, for example, are likely to include stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea. Insect stings, on the other hand, often result in localized swelling, redness, and pain.
The intensity of these symptoms can also vary, depending on the severity of the allergy. Mild allergies typically create almost unnoticeable symptoms. Moderate allergies often create a sensation of being ill. The most severe allergies, however, can create extreme discomfort and may even require medical intervention.
Symptoms Of Anaphylaxis
The most serious and extreme allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergic reaction that can develop and progress so quickly that it requires medical attention at the ER. Anaphylaxis reactions can develop within minutes or even hours after being exposed to an allergen. These reactions affect the entire body, and include symptoms such as:
- Hives and itching that affects multiple areas, not just the one the allergen came in contact with
- Sudden wheezing or shortness of breath
- Hoarseness or tightness in the throat
- Tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp
To find out if you have an allergy, and how severe it is, you will need to visit with a doctor - such as those at Laurel ENT - to report your suspicions and any symptoms you have previously experienced. Your doctor will be able to begin the process of determining which allergens you may be reacting to. Allergens can be identified quickly through a skin or even a blood test. After that, they will determine whether over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, allergy shots, or another type of treatment would best address your allergic reactions.
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