Allergies are an immune reaction to a particular food or substance. Usually the substance the causes the allergic reaction isn’t truly harmful at all. Allergic reactions are caused by substances called allergens.

Typical mild allergy symptoms can include sneezing, rash, itchy skin and eyes, wheezing, and nasal congestion. Common culprits that cause seasonal allergies include weeds, tree pollen, grasses, and molds. Allergies in response to dog and cat dander are very common. Common food allergies can include peanuts or other nuts, among a whole host of other substances.

Cause Of Allergies

Allergies are very common in the population, and both environment and genes are important. For example, if both a person’s parents have allergies, their children have a high chance of having them as well.

The immune system normally does a great job of protecting the body against dangerous foreign substances, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungal infections. For most people, allergens do not cause any sort of reaction.

However, for those with allergy problems, their immune system is over-reactive and oversensitive. Whenever it recognizes an allergen, instead of ignoring it, the immune system attacks. This process releases histamines. They’re the main reason allergy symptoms occur, and why antihistamines are popular allergy medications.

In some people, allergy-like reactions to sunlight, cold or hot temperatures, or other environmental triggers can occur. In rare cases, just applying friction of some sort to the skin can cause symptoms such as redness and swelling.

Allergies can worsen other co-occurring medical conditions. For example, allergies often worsen asthma, sinus problems, and eczema.

Symptoms Of Allergies

Common symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Worsening eczema or asthma symptoms
  • A blocked, congested, or runny nose
  • A red and/or itchy rash on the skin
  • Coughing and/or wheezing
  • Red, watery, and itchy eyes
  • Sneezing

Treatment Of Allergies

What treatment is available depends on what the person is allergic to in particular, and how severe the reaction. In a lot of cases, a general practitioner/primary care physician can offer treatment options and advice.

Health care providers can help people to take steps to avoid exposures to allergens, and they can recommend different medication options to help alleviate or control symptoms.

Most minor allergy symptoms are treated with corticosteroids, antihistamines, or decongestants. More severe allergies will require different medications.

Other Information 

The most common allergens people react to include:

  • insect stings and bites (these allergic reactions can be dangerous in some people, so be very cautious)
  • dust mites (microscopic organisms that live on most surfaces and feed on dust particles)
  • medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and certain antibiotics (such as penicillin)
  • latex, which is often present in some gloves and condoms
  • household chemicals, including hair dyes and detergents
  • animal dander, which will be present in all pets with fur coats
  • food – particularly nuts, shellfish, fruit, and eggs. Food-based allergic reactions can be deadly in some cases, so exercise caution
  • tree and grass pollen – an allergy to these substances is also called hay fever (or allergic rhinitis)
  • mold – some species can release small particles (spores) into the air that are then breathed in (note – some species of mold can be hazardous regardless of allergic status, so be very careful around it and avoid it entirely if possible)

Most of these allergens have no effect on and are generally harmless to those who aren’t allergic to them. However, some of these allergens are somewhat harmful on their own. Avoid them if possible, regardless of allergic status.