What is an Allergy?
An allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a normally harmless substance. Some common allergy triggers or allergens include pollen, foods, stinging insects, pets and dust mites.
What is an Allergic Reaction?
An allergic reaction is when the body’s immune system mistakes a harmless substance as an enemy and produces antibodies called “immunoglobulin E” (IgE) to attack and protect itself. It can occur when a person touches, swallows or inhales an allergen.
Any substance can cause an allergic reaction but the following are common allergies in adults and children.
- foods: peanuts, milk, egg, tree nuts
- insect stings: stings from bees, wasps and hornets
- drugs: penicillin, sulfa drugs and insulin
- pets: dogs, cats, horses
- dust mites
Common Allergy Symptoms
When a person is having an allergic reaction they may experience the following:
- runny nose
- nasal congestion
- hives or itching
- watery eyes
- difficulty breathing
Allergy Diagnosis and Treatment
A medical specialist or allergist can diagnose an allergic condition through skin testing (puncture testing). This test helps determine what a person is allergic to by causing an allergic reaction in a controlled environment. Avoidance of an allergy is the best treatment but some allergies are unavoidable. In this case, the doctor may prescribe medications such as antihistamines, leukotriene modifiers and inhaled steroids or inhalers. For more long-term relief of allergies, allergy shots are recommended.