What Are Allergies?
Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to substances that usually cause no reaction in most individuals. These substances can trigger sneezing, wheezing, coughing and itching. Some allergies have been linked to a variety of common and serious chronic respiratory illnesses (such as sinusitis and asthma). Additionally, allergic reactions can be severe and even fatal. However, with proper management, allergies can be controlled, allowing their sufferers to lead normal, productive lives.
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever or "indoor/outdoor," "seasonal," "perennial" or "nasal" allergies) includes these symptoms: nasal stuffiness, sneezing, clear discharge, and itching of the roof of the mouth and/or ears in addition to the nose.
- Asthma symptoms triggered by an allergic reaction include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, chest tightness, occasional fatigue and slight chest pain.
- Food allergies are most prevalent in very young children and frequently outgrown. Symptoms may include itching or swelling of lips or tongue; tightness of the throat accompanied by hoarseness; nausea and vomiting; diarrhea; occasionally chest tightness and wheezing; itching of the eyes; decreased blood pressure or loss of consciousness and anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is an extreme response to an allergy that is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention. Symptoms include generalized warmth or flush; tingling of palms, soles of feet or lips; light-headedness; bloating and chest tightness. These symptoms can progress into seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, shock and respiratory distress. Possible causes: medications, vaccines, food, latex, and insect stings and bites.
- Drug allergies can cause anaphylaxis; even those who do not have life-threatening symptoms initially may progress to a life-threatening reaction.