Allergies can occur in many different forms, presenting symptoms that range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. Although they can seem like a minor nuisance to many, experiencing any sort of reaction warrants a need to look into the root cause in order to be diagnosed and treated effectively.

What are Allergies?
In any case, allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to a foreign substance entering your body, whether it’s pollen, bee venom from a sting, pet dander, or even a specific food. Essentially, when this specific substance comes in contact with or enters your body, antibodies are made in an attempt to fight off this perceived threat, causing symptoms. Each person’s symptoms to a given allergen are unique, but they can affect the airways, sinuses, nasal passages, skin, and the digestive system.

Types of Allergies
Allergies can be broken down into a few different categories, each with its own unique set of typical symptoms. Note that any reaction resulting in anaphylaxis should receive medical assistance right away as it can be life-threatening.

  • Allergic Rhinitis (also known as hay fever): This allergic reaction most commonly stems from pollen, animal dander, dust mites, mold, and other airborne allergens.
    • Sneezing
    • Itchy nose, eyes or roof of the mouth
    • Runny and/or stuffy nose
    • Watery, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Food Allergies: While it may stem from any number of foods depending on the individual, it is typically caused by peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, and milk.
    • Tingling in the mouth
    • Swelling in the lips, tongue, face or throat
    • Hives
    • Anaphylaxis
  • Insect Sting Allergies: Bees or wasps are the most common insects causing allergic reactions.
    • Large amount swelling around the sting
    • Itching or hives over the entire body
    • Coughing, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath
    • Anaphylaxis
  • Drug Allergies: Penicillin or penicillin-based products most commonly result in a reaction, but any drug may cause an allergic reaction to an individual, so close attention is needed when any new prescription or over-the-counter is used.
    • Hives
    • Itchy skin or rash
    • Facial swelling
    • Wheezing
    • Anaphylaxis
  • Atopic Dermatitis (also known as eczema):
    • Itching
    • Reddening of the skin
    • Flaking or peeling skin

What to Do About Allergies
Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies, but there are treatments you can use to manage symptoms and ways to protect yourself from more severe reactions. For those who experience seasonal allergy symptoms, using an over-the-counter medication may be all that is needed for relief. However, when medicine isn’t working, or have symptoms that coincide with a different type of allergy, it’s recommended to visit a physician for further testing and treatment. Receiving the correct diagnosis will help provide you with a more effective treatment that will give you the relief you’re looking for.

Anyone who experiences a reaction after starting a new prescribed medication or is showing signs of anaphylaxis should go to the emergency room immediately. If you already know you are prone to anaphylaxis, be sure to carry your epinephrine auto-injector at all times, administer the shot right away at the first sign of symptoms, and go to the emergency room for further observation and treatment.

Diagnosing allergies can be complicated, so finding the right doctor is important. At Decatur County Memorial Hospital, we offer allergy management services in our ENT/Otolaryngology department, as well as through our Well Clinic for non-emergency care.

Don’t suffer through allergies any more. Contact our Otolaryngology department for an appointment, or visit us at our Well Clinic today.