What are allergies?
Allergies or allergic reactions can be related to various things including food, pets, seasonal changes, health conditions and more. Allergies occur when your body responds to a foreign substance called an allergen. An allergen could be anything that triggers a reaction from your immune system. It could be something you ingest, inhale, touch or come in contact with.
While there is no cure for allergies, you can manage them with prevention and treatment. Below are some of the some of the common types of allergies explained and what you can do to treat them.
Pollen comes from plants, grasses and weeds and can trigger seasonal allergies. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes to name a few. If you have seasonal allergies, you can track pollen counts online to avoid being outdoors when the counts are high. For more tips on how to manage your seasonal allergies, read here.
A food allergy reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a food or a substance in a food. Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe. They may include wheezing, hives, cough and even anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening. You can manage a food allergy by avoiding consumption of the food that causes you problems and reading ingredient labels carefully. Being allergic to certain foods may result in an increased risk of reaction to other foods. If you have experienced an allergic reaction to a food, be sure to talk to your doctor about it.
Common insect allergies can come from stings by bees, wasps, hornets or fire ants. People who are allergic to an insect sting are at risk for a much more serious reaction than redness, itching and swelling at the site of the bite. This includes a life-threatening reaction, anaphylaxis, and other symptoms including difficulty breathing, swelling in the face, lips or tongue, throwing up, dizziness or fainting. Anaphylaxis needs emergency medical attention, so please call 9–1–1 if you believe you are experiencing an anaphylactic reaction.
A drug allergy is an abnormal reaction of your immune system to a medication. While any medication can cause an allergy, a drug allergy is more likely with certain medications, one of the more common being penicillin. Common signs and symptoms of drug allergy are hives, rashes or fever, but like other allergic reactions, it can be as serious as anaphylaxis for some people.
A latex allergy is your body’s reaction to proteins in natural rubber latex. Symptoms can range from minor skin irritation to more severe reactions. Some people who have allergies to latex may also have an allergy to foods that have similar proteins to latex, this is known as cross-reactivity. Common examples include bananas, avocados, kiwis, tomatoes and chestnuts. Antihistamine drugs can help minor reactions, but severe reactions may need emergency care.
Dust allergies are caused by dust mites, microscopic organisms that are commonly found in homes. They are one of the most common indoor allergies and symptoms can be present year round. Symptoms may include sneezing, red or itchy eyes, coughing or runny nose. To manage a dust allergy, a few things you can do include using allergen-proof cases on your mattresses and pillows, removing carpet from your home, washing bed linens and drapery often, or vacuuming and dusting your house with a damp cloth regularly.
About the author
Dr. Kristin Dean is a Family Practice Physician who received her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in Nutritional Sciences. She continued her loyalty to the ‘Gator Nation’ and completed her medical school education at the University of Florida College of Medicine in 2010. Dr. Dean then moved to Los Angeles to complete her training in Family Medicine at Kaiser Permanente. Dr. Dean considers healthcare to be a team approach, with the patient being the captain of the healthcare team. Although she considers a healthy lifestyle to be the starting point for all healthcare plans, she uses medicine, empathy and education to continue to improve her patient’s health.