An allergy is a hypersensitive reaction of the immune system, caused by a specific trigger that may be found in foods, grasses, pets, pests, insects, mold, medications, latex, or other substances. These triggers, or allergens, are normally harmless, but in patients with allergies, certain proteins from allergy-inducing triggers interact with the immune system to create an inflammatory response, such as wheezing, hives, eczema, red or itchy eyes, congestion, coughing, runny nose, or an asthma attack. Severe allergies may result in a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxias, a serious, whole-body allergic reaction that may cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling, pain, dizziness, palpitations, or unconsciousness.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. Each person responds differently to potential allergic triggers. Placing allergens on the skin allergens on the skin and evaluating reactions, such as rash or swelling, through skin prick or patch testing, may identify specific triggers. Blood tests may also be helpful in evaluating the body’s response to certain allergens.
Many allergic reactions can be managed with oral, topical, or inhaled medications,steroids, avoidance of certain triggers, or immunotherapy (allergy shots). Your health care team can help you find the best course of treatment for preventing or controlling these reactions.
Learn more about diagnosing and treating allergies from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.