Common Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms are caused by your own immune system overreacting to something that is usually harmless to people. These symptoms can be nothing more than a minor irritation, or they can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.

Why Do We Have Allergic Reactions?

When your immune system encounters a substance that it believes is harmful, it releases chemicals called histamines. Histamines trigger reactions in your body such as coughing, sneezing, or raising your body temperature in an attempt to remove the harmful substance. This is normal, and histamines do keep your body safe when they work properly. Unfortunately, your immune system sometimes overreacts and produces too much histamine when it encounters certain substances called allergens. The result is a much more harmful allergic reaction.

Allergens can be practically anything one’s immune system registers as harmful, but some common allergens include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, insect bites, and certain kinds of food such as nuts, grain, shellfish, and eggs. It’s important that you be able to recognize what can trigger an allergic reaction in your own body so that you can take steps to avoid it.

What are the Most Common Allergic Reactions?

Since the list of potential allergens is practically limitless, it can be hard to come up with a list of common allergy symptoms. However, there are some reactions that are more common than others. These include the coughing, sneezing, and higher body temperature that we discussed before, but they also can include congestion, watery eyes, and a stuffy nose, reactions that are intended to remove allergens from our body but can be incredibly uncomfortable if it goes too far.

Other allergy symptoms often depend on the type of allergen the body is reacting to. For example, food allergy symptoms include hives, swelling of the tongue, nausea, and diarrhea. In severe cases, food allergies can cause a tight, hoarse throat that can make it difficult to speak, swallow or even breathe. A skin allergy might cause symptoms such as swelling, hives or a rash, while an allergy to a drug can cause hives, a rash or respiratory problems.

For some people, allergies are more of a nuisance than a genuine concern. They might have a runny nose or itchy red eyes in the spring, issues that are uncomfortable but are nothing that an over-the-counter allergy medication cannot cure. For others, allergies might be life-threatening health concerns that require immediate medical attention if they are triggered.

Determining if You Have an Allergy

A board-certified allergist can help determine if you have an allergy through a thorough medical examination as well as blood and skin tests to determine if you experience a reaction to any common allergens. If it turns out that you are allergic to anything, there are steps you can take to prevent a severe reaction. The most obvious is to avoid the allergen altogether. This might be a simple matter if you are allergic to food or drugs that you are unlikely to encounter accidentally, but it is considerably more difficult if you are allergic to pollen or another common substance. If you are unable to avoid the source of your problems, your next step might be to control your allergic reactions through medication and immunotherapy injections. You also might need to carry a single-use injector called an EpiPen for emergency situations. These injectors deliver a dose of epinephrine, a synthetic form of adrenaline that can reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

For more information about any allergies you might have and what you can do to prevent a potentially life-threatening reaction, speak to your primary physician.