What do i do for allergies

What do i do for allergies

Allergic reactions generally happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen.

They can cause:

  1. wheezing and coughing
  2. sneezing
  3. a red, itchy rash
  4. red, itchy, watery eyes
  5. a runny or blocked nose
  6. worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms

Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can happen.

This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.


Is it an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance?

Sensitivity

The exaggeration of the normal effects of a substance.

What do i do for allergies

For example, the caffeine in a cup of coffee may cause extreme symptoms, such as palpitations and trembling.

Allergy

A reaction produced by the body’s immune system when exposed to a normally harmless substance.

Intolerance

Where a substance causes unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhoea, but does not involve the immune system.

People with an intolerance to certain foods can typically eat a little quantity without having any problems.

Sheet final reviewed: 22 November
Next review due: 22 November

Symptoms of an allergic reaction usually develop within a few minutes of being exposed to something you’re allergic to, although occasionally they can develop gradually over a few hours.

Although allergic reactions can be a nuisance and hamper your normal activities, most are mild.

What do i do for allergies

Very occasionally, a severe reaction called anaphylaxis can occur.


What causes allergies?

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a specific substance as though it’s harmful.

It’s not clear why this happens, but most people affected own a family history of allergies or own closely related conditions, such as asthma or eczema.

The number of people with allergies is increasing every year.

The reasons for this are not understood, but 1 of the main theories is it’s the result of living in a cleaner, germ-free environment, which reduces the number of germs our immune system has to deal with.

It’s thought this may cause it to overreact when it comes into contact with harmless substances.


Main allergy symptoms

Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  1. swollen lips, tongue, eyes or face
  2. itchy, red, watering eyes (conjunctivitis)
  3. tummy pain, feeling ill, vomiting or diarrhoea
  4. a raised, itchy, red rash (hives)
  5. wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and a cough
  6. sneezing and an itchy, runny or blocked nose (allergic rhinitis)
  7. dry, red and cracked skin

The symptoms vary depending on what you’re allergic to and how you come into contact with it.

What do i do for allergies

For example, you may have a runny nose if exposed to pollen, develop a rash if you own a skin allergy, or feel sick if you eat something you’re allergic to.

See your GP if you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something. They can assist determine whether the symptoms are caused by an allergy or another condition.

What do i do for allergies

Read more about diagnosing allergies.


Common allergies

Substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens.

The more common allergens include:

  1. medicines – including ibuprofen, aspirin and certain antibiotics
  2. dust mites
  3. mould – these can release little particles into the air that you can breathe in
  4. latex – used to make some gloves and condoms
  5. food – particularly nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cows’ milk
  6. animal dander, tiny flakes of skin or hair
  7. insect bites and stings
  8. grass and tree pollen – an allergy to these is known as hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  9. household chemicals – including those in detergents and hair dyes

Most of these allergens are generally harmless to people who are not allergic to them.


How to manage an allergy

In many cases, the most effective way of managing an allergy is to avoid the allergen that causes the reaction whenever possible.

For example, if you own a food allergy, you should check a food’s ingredients list for allergens before eating it.

What do i do for allergies

There are also several medicines available to help control symptoms of allergic reactions, including:

  1. lotions and creams, such as moisturising creams (emollients) – these can reduce skin redness and itchiness
  2. antihistamines – these can be taken when you notice the symptoms of a reaction, or before being exposed to an allergen, to stop a reaction occurring
  3. decongestants – tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids that can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose
  4. steroid medicines – sprays, drops, creams, inhalers and tablets that can assist reduce redness and swelling caused by an allergic reaction

For some people with extremely severe allergies, a treatment called immunotherapy may be recommended.

This involves being exposed to the allergen in a controlled way over a number of years so your body gets used to it and does not react to it so severely.


Getting assist for allergies

See a GP if you ponder you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can also be caused by other conditions.

A GP can assist determine whether it’s likely you own an allergy.

If they ponder you might own a mild allergy, they can offer advice and treatment to assist manage the condition.

If your allergy is particularly severe or it’s not clear what you’re allergic to, they may refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and advice about treatment.

Find out more about allergy testing


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What do i do for allergies