An allergy is an immune response to a harmless substance. Common allergens include pollen, pet dander, mold, and peanuts. Approximately 20% of Americans suffer from allergy symptoms.
Your immune system serves an important purpose. It protects your body from harmful viruses and bacteria. However, your immune system can also malfunction. In those cases, your immune system may react to innocuous substances. The immune response can involve skin inflammation, nasal congestion, itchy skin, and digestive upset.
Allergy symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. During a severe allergic reaction, the person may experience anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening condition that causes throat swelling, breathing difficulties, and low blood pressure.
There is no cure for allergies. If you suffer from allergy symptoms, you should avoid allergens when possible. Sometimes, avoidance is not possible. This is particularly true when it comes to environmental allergies. In those cases, patients may need an allergy treatment to control the symptoms.
Estimates indicate that as many as 50 million people in the United States have allergies. Allergies are common among children and adults. In fact, allergies are the 5th most common chronic disease among Americans of all ages.
Some people have year-round allergies. Common year-round allergens include dust mites, pet dander, mold, and certain foods. The most common food allergens include milk, soy, eggs, wheat, and peanuts. Other people suffer from seasonal allergies. Common seasonal allergens include pollen, grass, and weeds.
Some patients are sensitive to less common substances. People can have severe allergic reactions to poisonous plants. Common allergens include poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Insect stings always cause some degree of pain and irritation. However, some people may have a more severe allergic reaction. Patients may react to stings from bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants.
Certain medications may cause allergy symptoms, including penicillin and aspirin. Other common allergens include cosmetics, perfumes, chemicals, and preservatives.
Patients may experience different symptoms, depending on the type of allergy. Allergic reactions can involve the respiratory system, digestive system, or skin.
Allergy symptoms that involve the respiratory system include:
Itchy eyes and nose.
Red, watery eyes.
Allergy symptoms that involve the skin include:
Dry, flakey skin.
Allergy symptoms that involve the digestive system include:
Swelling in the face, lips, tongue, and throat.
Allergy symptoms that result from insect stings include:
Local swelling around the sting.
Redness and itchiness.
Coughing and shortness of breath.
Allergy symptoms that result from reactions to drugs include:
Hives and rashes.
Swelling in the face.
Coughing and shortness of breath.
Avoid direct contact with allergens when possible. If youre sensitive to outdoor allergens, drive with your car windows up. Recirculate the air in the cabin and change the air filter on a regular basis. Clean the air ducts in your home at least once per year.
People who are allergic to dust mites should wear a mask and gloves while cleaning the house. Try to vacuum at least two times per week. Hardwood floors are the best option for people allergic to dust. Venetian blinds and long drapes tend to collect dust. Replace them with alternative window coverings when possible.
If youre sensitive to mold, control the humidity in your house. For best results, keep the humidity below 50%. Garages and basements tend to contain a lot of mold. Avoid these areas when possible. Clean your bathroom using specialized cleaners that can remove mold.
Allergy treatments can help you control allergy symptoms. You may choose an over-the-counter allergy treatment or a prescription medication. Common allergy treatments include corticosteroids, antihistamines, decongestants, sprays, creams, and eye drops. Speak to your doctor about your allergy treatment choices.
Corticosteroids are an effective allergy treatment that keeps your body from reacting to allergens. These medications must be taken daily to prevent allergy symptoms. There are three main prescription corticosteroid treatments:
Nasonex. This medication works well for indoor and outdoor allergies.
Nasacort. A nasal spray that treats allergy symptoms.
Flonase. A synthetic corticosteroid allergy treatment.
The side effects of corticosteroid medications may include irritation to the nose, eyes, mouth, and throat. Other side effects include nosebleeds, skin discoloration, and muscle weakness. Before taking corticosteroid allergy treatments, tell your doctor if you have hypertension or glaucoma.
Antihistamines prevent the release of histamines that can cause an allergic reaction. There are two main prescription antihistamine allergy treatments:
Clarinex. An oral antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms.
Patanol. Eye drops used to treat allergy symptoms.
Patients may take antihistamines with nasal decongestants. A variety of pills, liquids, and nasal sprays are available over-the-counter. Some antihistamines and nasal decongestants may cause drowsiness. You may wish to choose a non-drowsy formulation.
Antihistamines are generally well tolerated. The side effects of antihistamines can include dry mouth, nausea, and dizziness. Speak to your doctor if you experience side effects while using antihistamines. Your doctor can help you select the right allergy treatment for your symptoms.