Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance — such as pollen, bee venom or pet dander — that doesn’t cause a reaction in most people. Your immune system produces substances known as antibodies. Some antibodies protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause infection.
The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening emergency. While most allergies can’t be cured, a number of treatments can help relieve your allergy symptoms.
Allergy symptoms depend on the substance involved and can involve the airways, sinuses and nasal passages, skin, and digestive system. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe. In some severe cases, allergies can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Some types of allergies, including allergies to foods and insect stings, have the potential to trigger a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis. A life-threatening medical emergency, this reaction can cause you to go into shock. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
You might see a doctor if you have symptoms you think may be caused by an allergy, especially if you notice something that seems to trigger your allergies. If you have symptoms after starting a new medication, call the doctor who prescribed it right away.
For a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), call 999 or your local emergency number or seek emergency medical help. If you carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others), give yourself a shot right away.
Even if symptoms improve after an epinephrine injection, a visit to the emergency department is still necessary to make sure symptoms don’t return when the effects of the injection wear off.
If you’ve had a severe allergy attack or any signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis in the past, make an appointment to see your doctor. Evaluation, diagnosis and long-term management of anaphylaxis are complicated, so you’ll probably need to see a doctor who specializes in allergies and immunology.
An allergy starts when your immune system mistakes a normally harmless substance for a dangerous invader. The immune system then produces antibodies that remain on the alert for that particular allergen. When you’re exposed to the allergen again, these antibodies can release a number of immune system chemicals, such as histamine, that cause allergy symptoms.
Common allergy triggers include:
You may be at increased risk of developing an allergy if you:
Having an allergy increases your risk of certain other medical problems, including:
We carry out a range of tests including blood tests, patch tests and skin prick tests to investigate allergies