There are many different types of allergies that you may have to deal with. While they can cause a lot of problems and make it difficult to live your daily life, you can take action to find relief.
Allergies Are Caused By Your Immune System
When you come into contact with an allergen – a substance that your immune system thinks is a danger to you – it sets off a chain of events, says Irene Paek, MD, an allergy and immunologist at ProHEALTH Care Associates, part of Optum, in Bethpage, New York.
The first step is that your body creates certain antibodies (called immunoglobulin E, or IgE), which attack the allergen. These antibodies release chemicals called histamine that trigger symptoms, explains Dr. McGrath, an allergist and immunologist with Trinity Health of New England and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Depending on the type of allergy, it can cause sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and itching. Other times, the reaction can be more serious – and even life-threatening – such as asthma or anaphylaxis.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, perform a physical exam, and order blood or skin tests to confirm a diagnosis of an allergic condition. Your doctor also may prescribe allergy medications to relieve your symptoms or prevent the allergen from causing an allergic reaction.
A common type of allergy is a food allergy, which occurs when you’re sensitive to certain foods. These foods can include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish and fish.
If you’re suffering from a food allergy, the best treatment is to avoid the foods that cause your problem. You can do this by making sure to wash your hands after eating and avoiding foods that aren’t familiar to you. You can also take medication to prevent your allergies from worsening, such as antihistamines or inhaled corticosteroids.
Another common type of allergy is a drug allergy, which happens when you’re sensitive to drugs, such as penicillin. These reactions can be quite severe and life-threatening, and usually happen within minutes of taking a drug.
The most serious type of allergy is a food allergy, or anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include swelling of the tongue or throat, shortness of breath, rapid pulse and drop in blood pressure.
You can get an allergic reaction to many things, including pollen, dust mites, cockroaches and mold. This is why it’s important to stay home when the pollen count is high or to remove airborne particles in your house, such as pet dander.
Allergy shots can help with some allergic conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and food allergies. They can also help relieve the symptoms of hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis, and prevent future symptoms.
Your doctor will prescribe allergy medication if you have an allergy, and will monitor your progress. You can also use over-the-counter medications, such as nasal sprays, to relieve your symptoms and prevent them from recurring.