Allergies

Allergic reactions happen when the body’s immune system overreacts to certain substances. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), allergic reactions can include coughing, wheezing, watery eyes, sneezing and itching. Allergies can fall into a variety of categories, including seasonal allergies, food allergies and allergies to drugs.

What is a pollen allergy?

People suffering from seasonal allergies may have a negative response to pollen. According to the National Institutes of Health, much of the pollen that causes these reactions comes from trees, weeds and grass. The pollen count refers to how much pollen is in the air during a 24-hour period. For people suffering from pollen allergies, they should know that the counts are usually highest in the morning on warm and windy days.

What is a food allergy?

Food allergies are more common in children than adults. According to the AAFA, about 90 percent of all food allergy reactions are caused by peanuts, milk, soy, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, fish or shellfish. Approximately 8 percent of school-aged children suffer from a food allergy, however an allergic response may not show itself during the first interaction with the problem food. In fact, an allergic reaction typically occurs during the following exposure and can appear anywhere from a few minutes to several hours after the meal. Symptoms of a food allergy include itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal cramps. Swollen spots on the lips, face, tongue and throat may also occur, according to Mayo Clinic.  

What is a penicillin allergy?

An allergy to penicillin occurs when the immune system has an adverse reaction to the drug. According to the Mayo Clinic, a penicillin allergy can show itself as anything from a rash to anaphylaxis, which is a severe reaction characterized by a tightening of the airways. Anaphylaxis occurs in the entire body and happens very quickly after the person is exposed. About 3 to 10 percent of the U.S. population has had an allergic response to penicillin, according to the CDC. About 10 percent of those who have had a severe reaction are allergic their entire lives.

What is an allergy test?

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergy tests may be able to reveal a patient's specific allergies. The doctors who perform these tests, called allergists, have extensive training in this field. You should consider getting an allergy test if you're experiencing persistent symptoms. This can include itchy eyes or nose, nasal congestion, coughing or wheezing. Allergies can also show up on the skin (through itching or eczema) or in the abdominal part of the body (through diarrhea or vomiting after a meal). Tests for allergies vary, but they can include a skin test. This is when allergens are put into the skin to see if they spur a reaction. An allergy test can also be performed in the mouth or by drawing blood. The AAAAI cautions against allergy tests in supermarkets or drug stores as well as home testing, as they can be less effective than tests performed in a doctor’s office.

Treatments

Allergy tests can be helpful in revealing specific allergens, and immunotherapy is picking up steam as a viable treatment approach for allergies. Oral immunotherapy works by building up a person’s tolerance to food allergens by gradually ingesting them over a period of time. If successful, the body eventually becomes desensitized to problem foods.  

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