One out of every six Americans has some kind of allergy, according to the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology. And upwards of 32 million North Americans are believed to suffer from hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, alone. Add to that the millions who suffer from a variety of allergies to food, mold, insects, dust and more. For many, their allergy is manageable, but for others, it can cause a severe reaction that can result in death if not treated immediately.
NOTE: Consult with a doctor if your symptoms are persistent and aggravating.
- An allergy results when the immune system mistakes a nontoxic substance as a foreign invader, which it then attacks and consequently wreaks havoc on the body.
- The substances that bring on an allergic response are called allergens.
- When allergens enter the body, the immune system produces antibodies that bind to cells in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, skin and blood. These cells, in turn, release chemicals like histamine.
- Histamine provokes the allergic symptoms typically seen in allergy sufferers from the runny nose to watery eyes.
- For some, having asthma or eczema can exacerbate existing allergies and vice versa.
- There are a number of allergies, hay fever (an allergy to pollen) being the best known of all. Others are allergies to foods, sulfites, mold, dust, certain metals or cosmetics, lanolin, animal dander, insect venom, drugs such as penicillin or aspirin, soap chemicals and latex rubber.
- Some allergic reactions may be so severe as to cause anaphylactic shock. Symptoms begin as itchy skin, headache, nausea and vomiting, sneezing, coughing, stomach cramps, shortness of breath and feelings of anxiety. But anaphylaxis can quickly progress to include convulsions and unconsciousness. Seek medical attention if you feel such symptoms coming on; a shot of epinephrine can resolve the situation.