What Are Allergies?

Allergies are common conditions that 20% to 25% of Americans experience everyday.  They are an adverse response that the body has to a foreign substance like dust or certain food such as nuts.  These substances are generally safe and are called allergen when cause an allergic reaction.


Allergy occurs when immune system responds to an allergen as an invader, just like an infection.  When the allergen enters the body, immune system generates type of antibody called IgE that attaches to allergen to fight it off.  The body produces and releases various chemicals such as histamine into our blood stream causing allergic reactions.  Now the next time our body is exposed to the same allergen, our immune system develops more of the same antibody and same chemicals released into our system so we experience the same allergic reaction.  The type of the symptoms is determined by the way you got the allergen.  For instance, you can have difficulties with breathing and airways if you inhale dust.

Types of Allergens

Allergens are typically harmless.  Some typical allergens are dust, mold, pollen, pet hair.  So your body may show allergic reaction to cat hair or some flowers.

types of allergyFood allergens are less common but they include:

  • nuts & peanuts
  • fruits
  • gluten
  • soy
  • eggs
  • wheat and so on

Skin allergens include:

  • latex
  • nickel
  • plastic
  • dyes

Allergies may also be caused by insect sting or wasp or medication such as certain antibiotics or aspirin and so on.  Click here to learn about different types of allergies.

Symptoms of Allergy

Common allergic disorders include asthma, eczema and hay fever. Signs of an allergic reaction range from itchy & runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, coughing and skin rashes & hives.  other types of allergens can cause different reactions.  For example, with food allergy, reaction could be stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea.  Insect sting may cause pain, redness and swelling.

The allergy symptoms ranges from mild to severe.  With mild symptoms, you wouldn’t even notice it.  With moderate condition, you may feel sick and with severe reaction you are very distressed.

The most serious reaction is anaphylaxis which causes symptoms in the whole body such as:

  • Difficulty breathing and wheezing
  • Hives & itching all over body
  • Tingling in feet, lips, hands and head
  • Stiffness in throat

Anaphylaxis is a serious medical condition as symptoms develops quickly and could be life-threatening.   You need to see a physician right away if you feel anaphylaxis.


You should talk to your primary physician or specialist if you think you have allergies.  To diagnose the cause of allergy, your doctor may do a skin prick test to find the type of allergen that causes your reaction.  Click here to view different allergy tests.


There is no drug that would cure the allergy; only to relieve the symptoms.  The best treatment is to avoid exposing yourself to the allergens that create the reactions.  For example, if you’re allergic to certain type of food, you shouldn’t eat them or if you are allergic to cat, you should not get close to it.

Check out this short video for basic information about allergies.


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  1. News Medical
  2. NHS Choice
  3. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  4. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology


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