What Are Allergies – The Basics

What Are Allergies – The Basics

An allergy is basically your immune system reacting to some foreign substance such as pet dander, bee venom or pollen, or even to food, which would normally not cause such a reaction in majority of people.

Immune system is responsible for creating antibodies. These help fight off infections, diseases and many more things. However, at times, the immune system identifies a particular foreign substance as harmful, although it is not, and then proceeds to prepare antibodies to fight it off. Thus, when you come in contact with such allergens, your immune system flairs up and the antibodies it produces can inflame the airways, skin, digestive system or sinuses.

Allergic reactions vary in severity from individual to individual. They can be simple minor irritations or even anaphylaxis. The latter can at times develop into life-threatening emergencies. Unfortunately, majority of allergies are non-curable though treatments exist to help alleviate the symptoms.

Symptoms Of Allergies

The symptoms of an allergy basically depend on the kind of allergen or foreign substance that your body is reacting to. It can cause inflammation of the digestive system, airways, nasal passages or sinuses. The reactions themselves can range from severe to mind. And in most extreme cases, allergies can ultimately trigger a condition known as anaphylaxis.

Here are some common allergic conditions and their symptoms.

Hay Fever

Also known as allergic rhinitis. Its symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose, itching of the eyes, nose or roof of mouth and sneezing. Sometimes, it can also show as swollen or red watery eyes also called conjunctivitis.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are commonplace and they often come with the symptoms of hives, swelling of the throat, face, tongue or just the lips and tingling mouth syndrome. In only extreme cases does it include anaphylaxis.

Insect Sting Allergy

Insect stings can also cause an allergic reaction because of the foreign material that enters the blood stream. The sting site can swell, also called edema. Your body can be covered with hives or itches all over. You can develop shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and even cough. Extreme cases of anaphylaxis are also possible.

Drug Allergies

Various drugs can manifest as an allergic reaction. The symptoms of drug allergy usually include itchy skin, rash, wheezing, facial swelling, hives and in most extreme of situations – anaphylaxis.

Atopic dermatitis

It is a skin condition borne from an allergy, which is also called eczema and it can cause the skin to redden, peel, flake or itch.


A potentially life-threatening reaction to allergens, it can happen from any foreign substance. The major symptom of this condition is the individual going into shock. Other symptoms include a sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, skin rashes, rapid weak pulse, shortness of breath, light headedness, nausea, weak pulse and vomiting.

When Should You Consult A Doctor

If you have any of the symptoms described above and are suspicious of an allergen, or if you suddenly notice something that triggers such symptoms on a repetitive basis then you should call a doctor immediately to get medication before walking in for a thorough test.

In the case of anaphylaxis, immediately call 911 or any local emergency number to seek help. Those prone to anaphylaxis should always carry an epinephrine injector such as an EpiPen so as to prevent anaphylaxis immediately.

Even after using an EpiPen, you should visit the hospital to ensure symptoms do not return after the injection runs its course.