Allergies can happen to anyone at any stage of life. It happens when the immune system creates antibodies to fight off viruses and bacteria, to prevent you from getting sick. The immune system has a very important job, which is to defend your body from dangerous invaders. Sometimes, it overreacts and starts fighting substances that aren’t harmful to most people (known as allergens), such as peanuts, pollen, dust mites, or medicines. When this happens, it’s called an allergic reaction.
There are numerous symptoms of an allergic reaction, some people sneeze, others get rashes or vomit. The reaction may affect only a small area of the body (such as itchy eyes), but it can also affect the entire body (such as hives). What you’re allergic to determine the symptoms. Parts of the body that will react are usually the nose, skin, mouth, eye, and digestive system. Allergies have many types, some of the most common ones are:
- Medicine allergies, such as penicillin, sulfa medicines, vaccines, seizure medicines, and some blood pressure medicines.
- Food allergies are more common in children than in any other age group. Many people are allergic to shrimp, shellfish, peanut, eggs, milk, and soy.
- Allergies to insect venom happen when a person is stung by an insect (particularly bees), the poisons and toxins in the insect’s venom enter your system.
- Allergies to animals usually cause breathing problems. People can be allergic to the cat’s fur or dog’s saliva.
- Allergies to cosmetics, such as henna tattoos and hair extensions.
- Seasonal allergies usually happen at the same time every year and are mostly caused by exposure to pollens from trees and grasses.
An allergic reaction may not occur the first time your body comes into contact with an allergen. First-time exposure usually produces only a mild reaction, while repeated exposures can lead to more serious reactions. Once you have come into contact with an allergen, even a very small amount of that allergen can trigger a severe reaction. An allergic reaction is sometimes unpredictable. It ranges from mild to life-threatening depending on how much of the allergen gets into your system and the way your body responds. The most severe form of allergy is called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. The reaction occurs only minutes after exposure and can lead to loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, and death.
Mild to moderate allergic reactions can normally be treated with home remedies and over-the-counter medications (OTC). Although the reaction is mild, you need to stay calm because anxiety can make symptoms a lot worse. Try to identify the allergen, and once you find out what it is, stay away and avoid further contact with it. Most symptoms can be reduced by antihistamines, which come in several forms to make it easier to consume. You can have antihistamines in the form of oral pills, nasal sprays, liquid, eye drops, and dissolvable tablets. Other medications such as nasal decongestants and anti-inflammatory medications may also help reduce pain, cramping, and swelling caused by allergies.
While mild allergic reactions can be treated by OTC, severe allergic reactions need immediate medical attention. If you suspect that you have a severe allergy, you should speak to a professional. A doctor or a specialist is able to prescribe medications that contain much stronger doses than OTC products, and by consulting to a professional, you can have emergency medicine on hand. When you’re with someone who is experiencing anaphylaxis, you should call 911 immediately and help the person lie on their back. If they’re vomiting or bleeding, turn them on their side. If needed, check if they have epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector (EpiPen) and help them to use it.
It is important to identify if you have an allergic reaction or not because when you know what kind of allergy you have, you can always take precautions. The more control you have of being exposed to allergens, the less likely you will have an allergic reaction. If you have a severe allergy, make sure to let your family and friends know and tell them where you keep your EpiPen.