Allergies are an overreaction of the body's natural defense system that helps fight infections.
An allergic reaction may not occur the first time you are exposed to an allergen, but then occur on subsequent exposures. There are many types of allergies, including:
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that as many as 1-in-6 people in the United States suffer from some type of allergic disease.
During allergic reactions, the immune system starts fighting substances that are usually harmless (for example dust mites, pollen, or a type of food) as though these substances were trying to attack the body. This overreaction causes allergy symptoms such as rash, itchy eyes, a runny nose, trouble breathing, nausea, or diarrhea.
Allergens that cause a reaction can come in contact with the skin, be inhaled, or be eaten. People who have allergies are typically allergic to one or more of the following:
If you have a close family member who has allergies, you will have a greater risk for developing allergies.
The symptoms of allergic reactions can be mild or severe. Symptoms may worsen upon repeated exposure.
Mild symptoms can include:
Severe reactions can include:
The most common types of allergy tests are:
Allergens can be used to diagnose allergies and even be injected as form of treatment.
Most allergic reactions are mild, but a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is more serious. Anaphylaxis can develop within seconds of being exposed to an allergen and cause a variety of problems ranging from nosebleeds or coughing... to swelling of the airway, an inability to breathe, or a dramatic drop in blood pressure... to death.
If you experience symptoms of anaphylaxis, seek immediate emergency help. Without treatment, anaphylaxis can result in death within 15 minutes.
Food allergies are more common in children than adults, and most common in people with an inherited tendency to develop allergic conditions such as asthma.
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