More than 50 million Americans suffer with allergies each year. There is a good chance that you or someone you care about is constantly coughing, sneezing, or taking something for red, itchy eyes. But have you ever considered what allergies actually are, what causes them, and how to deal with them?
As part of our commitment to making sure you have the information you need to make important health decisions for your family, we put together this helpful allergy overview so you can identify and seek treatment for them.
What Are Allergies?
Some substances we live with every day like pollen, dust, or peanuts may not bother most people, but your immune system might mistake them for something harmful and go into overdrive, producing antibodies to fight that allergen. Common allergens include mold spores, pet dander, insect stings, foods, certain types of medicine, and more.
What Are Allergy Symptoms?
Common allergic reaction symptoms include difficulty breathing, changes in blood pressure, stuffy nose, or digestive issues.
Common food allergy symptoms include:
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, face or tongue
Common drug allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy skin
- Rashes or hives
- Swelling of the face
Insect bite/sting symptoms include:
- Swelling at the site
- Itching or hives
- Cough, wheezing, shortness of breath
The most serious allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening reaction that can—in the most extreme allergic cases—result from insect stings, severe food allergies, or drug allergies. Anaphylaxis symptoms include loss of consciousness, sudden drop in blood pressure, extreme shortness of breath, lightheadedness, rapid or weak pulse, nausea, and vomiting.
While there is no cure for allergies, most people can treat and manage their allergy symptoms using over-the-counter or prescription medications including lotions to ease dry, itchy skin. You may also try to avoid any triggers that can cause an allergic reaction, though this may not be effective if you don’t know which allergens are impacting you. If medications don’t work for you or avoidance isn’t possible, talk to your doctor to find out about allergy shots and testing.
Tips for Preventing Allergic Reactions
In addition to medications and avoidance, there are other measures you can take to help manage your allergies.
- For children, don’t allow stuffed animals in the bed—they trap dust and other allergens.
- Try to avoid carpet and rugs at home—they hold onto allergens; if you have carpet, vacuum as often as possible.
- Clean your air conditioning filters regularly—your filter traps many of the allergy-causing fibers, pollens, dust, and more that can lead to allergic reactions.
- Keep an allergy diary—record what causes or increases your symptoms; track the foods you eat and activities you do to look for triggers; also record what seems to help and share that information with your doctor.
- Consider wearing a medical alert device—a bracelet or necklace that lets others known about your allergies may prove to be a lifesaver.
- Avoid foods that increase inflammation—for some people, allergies can stimulate more inflammation in the body, leading to a cascade of effects, making conditions such as psoriasis, arthritis, and acne worse. Cut back on food and drink that causes inflammation, such as sugary soft drinks, chips, processed foods, and candy.
Keep Living Your Normal Life
Don’t let allergies ruin your activities at home, work, or school—do what you can to avoid your triggers, keep your medicines with you at all times, and talk to your doctor regularly about what works and what doesn’t work to treat your symptoms.
If you don’t already have a doctor, use our tool to help you find one today.