An allergy is an abnormal response to a usually harmless or even beneficial substance — when your body comes into contact with something you're allergic to (an "allergen"), it triggers a bodily reaction meant to be "defensive". As a result, chemicals like histamine are released and you, the allergic person, experiences nasty symptoms.
Regardless of what you're allergic to, some of the symptoms you can expect, depending on the severity of your allergy, include:
- Itching. This can occur in your mouth, your eyes, or on the skin, for example.
- A runny or congested nose and watering eyes.
- Hives (urticaria).
- Swelling in various parts of your body, such as your lips or throat.
- Shortness of breath and wheezing.
- Anaphylaxis, a rarer but potentially life-threatening allergic reaction in which you may experience nausea, low blood pressure, a weak and fast pulse, and fainting in addition to the other symptoms of allergy. If you or someone around you displays these symptoms, call for an ambulance or head to the ER.
In the case of food allergies, such as allergies to tree nuts, eggs, peanuts, fish, or wheat, you're also going to experience symptoms like stomach cramps (abdominal pain), nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Finding Out What You Are Allergic To
In some cases, it's pretty obvious what you're experiencing an allergic reaction to — if you've been stung by a bee and then experience a reaction, or ate shellfish you've never had before and then develop symptoms, for instance. In other cases, it won't be obvious at all.
Whenever you think you have developed an allergic reaction — and keep in mind that it's possible to become allergic to something you weren't previously allergic to later in life as well — seek medical attention and tell your treating physician about your symptoms. Where necessary, you will be referred to an allergist, who can perform testing, including skin prick tests, blood tests, or advise an elimination diet in case of suspected food allergies.
The treatment of your allergies will depend on what you are allergic to, but where possible, avoiding the allergen(s) is an integral part of managing your allergies. A food allergy, for instance, is primarily managed by avoiding the food in question, while mold allergies can be managed by keeping your home as dry and ventilated as possible.
Antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids (as creams, sprays, drops, and more) may be available without a prescription, but it's still a good idea to consult a physician to make sure that you receive the best medications possible.
"Allergy shots" (immunotherapy) may also help you overcome your allergy and might be suitable for you if you have severe allergies you haven't been able to manage well in another way; ask your doctor about them. The process is likely to be lengthy and highly uncomfortable, but it can ultimately reduce or even cure your allergy.
Those people who have developed anaphylaxis in the past or those who are deemed to be at risk may be advised to carry an adrenalin auto-injector (EpiPen) to reduce the risk that the anaphylaxis becomes life-threatening.
Still have something to ask?
Get help from other members!