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What Are Allergies?

Allergies occur when your body produces histamines after encountering something in the environment that it deems as an intruder. Many allergy symptoms are minor such as watery eyes and sneezing, but others, such as anaphylactic shock, can be life threatening.

What Causes Allergies?

When your body comes into contact with an allergens, the immune system produces antibodies that release chemicals called histamines. These histamines are responsible for the symptoms associated with allergies.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Skin redness, swelling, itching, scaling or development of hives
  • Chest tightness, coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Change in blood pressure or heart rate
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion or swelling of sinuses
  • Stomach pain and/or nausea
  • Throat swelling

Are Allergies Dangerous?

In more severe cases, allergies can result in asthma or anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening. Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Pale or flushed skin
  • Hives
  • Constricted airway
  • Swollen tongue
  • Weak pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fainting

How Are Allergies Treated?

Allergy treatment will depend on your symptoms, allergens and medical history. The most common treatments include:

  • Nasal sprays, such as corticosteroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Mast cell stabilizers (an alternative method of histamine blocking)
  • Creams or ointments (often containing corticosteroids)
  • Oral corticosteroids (for treating severe allergic reactions)
  • Epinephrine
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