Allergies 101

Allergies are very common in both children and adults.

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What are allergies?

Allergies occur when yourThe immune system is a collection of cells and proteins that works to protect the body from potentially harmful, infectious microorganisms (microscopic life-forms), such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. The immune system plays a role in the control of cancer and other diseases, but also is the culprit in the phenomena of allergies, hypersensitivity and the rejection of transplanted organs, tissues and medical implants." rel="tooltip">immune system对一个“过敏原”——通常没有坏处foreign substance such as dust, pollen, pet dander, or food. Your immune system responds to these allergens by trying to fight them off like a germ or virus, which causes physical symptoms such as sneezing, itching, hives, shortness of breath, and more. These physical symptoms can range from mild symptoms like sneezing or itching toanaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening reaction.

How can I tell if I have allergies?

Do you get a stuffy nose and itchy eyes when spring flowers start to bloom? Do you get hives from petting your friend’s dog? Do you get dizzy or nauseous when you eat fish? Sneezing, wheezing, itching, swelling, difficulting swallowing, stomach cramps, vomiting and more can all besymptoms of allergies. You may notice that you experience these symptoms at certain times of the year, in certain environments, or when you eat certain foods. An allergist can help you identify your specific allergic triggers and make a plan for managing your symptoms.

How common are allergies?

Allergies are very common in both children and adults. According to the CDC, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, and allergic conditions are the 6th most common cause of chronic illness in the U.S. Around 4% of adults in the U.S. have food allergies, along with 4-6% of children.

What causes allergies?

It’s difficult to say why some people’s immune systems react to substances that are normally harmless (“allergens”), but genetics likely plays a role for some people. Parents with allergies are more likely to have children with allergies, but reactions to specific allergens are not passed down. If your mother is allergic to peanuts, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will also be allergic to peanuts — but it does mean you’re more likely to have some kind of allergies.

How do I treat my allergies?

Allergists are specially trained to diagnose and treat your allergies so that you can take back control of your life. They will conduct testing to identify your allergic triggers and work with you on a plan to help you avoid your allergens and manage your symptoms. They may also prescribemedicationorallergy immunotherapy.

If you are at risk for a severe reaction, especially if you have a foodAllergies are inappropriate or exaggerated reactions of the immune system to substances that, in the majority of people, cause no symptoms. Symptoms of the allergic diseases may be caused by exposure of the skin to a chemical, of the respiratory system to particles of dust or pollen (or other substances), or of the stomach and intestines to a particular food." rel="tooltip">allergy, your allergist may prescribe anepinephrine auto-injector. Be sure to carry your auto-injector with you, and always have two doses available. Use yourEpinephrine is a naturally occurring hormone, also called adrenaline. It is one of two chemicals (the other is norepinephrine) released by the adrenal gland. Epinephrine increases the speed and force of heart beats and thereby the work that can be done by the heart. It dilates the airways to improve breathing and narrows blood vessels in the skin and intestine so that an increased flow of blood reaches the muscles and allows them to cope with the demands of exercise. Epinephrine has been produced synthetically as a drug since 1900. It remains the drug of choice for treatment of anaphylaxis." rel="tooltip">epinephrineauto-injector immediately if you experience a severe reaction — the risks of not using it far outweigh the risks of an unnecessary dose of epinephrine.

What are some common allergies?

There are many different types of allergies. Some people are allergic to dust, pet dander, pollen or mold. Others are allergic to latex, or certain drugs or insect stings.

Food allergiesare also common. Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but the eight most common food allergens are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy.

What should I do if I have an allergic reaction?

It’s best to avoid coming into contact with your allergic triggers as much as possible. It may be difficult to entirely avoid some allergens, or you may be accidentally exposed, so it’s best to be prepared and have a plan in case of a reaction.

Your allergist may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications which can help to alleviate allergy symptoms like sneezing or itching.

Use your epinephrine auto-injector immediately If you experience severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, repetitive coughing, weak pulse,hives, tightness in your throat, trouble breathing or swallowing, or a combination of symptoms from different body areas, such as hives, rashes or swelling on the skin coupled with vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain. In some patients, the severe reaction can happen again, so use a second dose if necessary. Call (or have someone else call) for emergency medical services and tell them that epinephrine was administered.

If you’re not certain whether your reaction is severe enough to need epinephrine, use it. The risks of using epinephrine are much lower than the risks of a severe allergic reaction.

Is there a cure for my allergies?

No. However, depending on the type of allergy,immunotherapy treatmentmay help your body to become less allergic to your triggers, which can help you live more comfortably and decrease the risks of a severe reaction.

Some people grow out of allergies. For example, children often outgrow food allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat. However, there is no guarantee that any specific person will outgrow their allergies, and there is no way to predict whether it will happen.