What Is an Allergic Reaction?
Some people sneeze like crazy. Others get itchy hives or watery eyes. But whatever the reaction, it boils down to one thing: allergies.
If you have allergies, you have lots of company. As many as 30% of U.S. adults and 40% of children are in the same boat as you.
While your problem may seem to start in the nose or the eyes, allergies actually come from an immune system run wild.
Learning why these reactions happen can help you keep things under control and feeling better.
Why Allergic Reactions Happen
Your immune system has an important job: to defend your body from invaders such as bacteria and viruses that mean you harm.
But when it makes war on substances it shouldn’t, that’s an allergy.
Peanuts, eggs, or pollen, for example, can trigger reactions. They are called allergens.
You can come into contact with allergens in many ways: through the skin, eyes, nose, mouth, or stomach. This can cause your sinuses to clog up, inflame your skin, make it harder to breathe, or cause stomach problems.
Types of Allergies
Here are some common types of allergies:
Hay fever: Also known as allergic rhinitis, it can cause:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes, nose or roof of mouth
- Red, swollen, watery eyes — a condition known as allergic conjunctivitis
Food allergies : You may feel tingling in your mouth. Your tongue, lips, throat, or face might swell up. Or you could get hives. In the worst cases, you might have anaphylaxis and will need medical help right away.
Eczema: Also known as atopic dermatitis, it is a skin condition. You might have it if you have itching, redness, and peeling or flaking.
Medications: If you’re allergic to a certain drug, you may get a rash, facial swelling, or hives. You could find yourself wheezing. In severe cases, you may develop anaphylaxis.
Stings: If you’re allergic to bees or other insects you may get:
- A large area of swelling, known as edema, at the site of the sting
- Itching or hives all over your body
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, or a cough
How Can I Get Relief?
You can find treatment options for mild to moderate allergic reactions. Antihistamines and decongestants can help treat certain symptoms, as can nasal sprays.
If you have an allergic-type asthma, your doctor might also prescribe an inhaler to ease attacks. Or she may inject a special antibody to manage symptoms.
If you don’t get enough relief by avoiding your allergens and using medications, your doctor may want to give you allergy shots. This type of treatment is called immunotherapy, and it can be effective for hay fever and allergic asthma.