Updated: Jan 16
Millions of adults and children in the U.S. have allergies, whether it is asthma, hay fever, hives, or food.
Symptoms range from mild but irritating to life threatening.
It is thought that people inherit the tendency to have an allergy, but it is not completely understood. Also, being exposed to certain allergens while the body’s normal defenses are weakened may trigger an allergic response. This might occur with an infection, at puberty, or during pregnancy for instance.
Allergic reactions are seen in children most often. Eczema often appears in infants or very young children. Asthma and hay fever often begin during preschool or elementary years. Fortunately, many of the symptoms of allergies can be prevented or controlled.
What is an allergy?
The overreaction of the immune system when exposed to a harmless substance. The body sees the substance as a threat, and mounts an attack.
What are symptoms?
Ways in which an allergy may present itself include asthma (although asthma is not always due to an allergic reaction), in which the airways swell and narrow, making breathing difficult and causing wheezing; allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, a seasonal reaction to allergens in the air; and perennial allergic rhinitis, which has the same symptoms as hay fever but may be present anytime. Perennial rhinitis more often due to allergens such as dust or animal dander that are present year round. Eczema is a common, chronic rash most often seen in infants; the rash typically comes and goes. Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction to a substance that comes in contact with the skin; the primary symptoms are itching and redness. Hives or urticaria are raised welts on the skin that may occur as a reaction to insect stings, medicines, foods, or other allergens.
As always, if you have any questions, please reach out for more information. For general questions, you can dial "3" from the main menu of our phone line to leave a question for the nurses and providers.
Next week we will follow up this introduction to allergies with some more in depth information.