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Dermatology Information and Resources

Allergies

Allergies are an immune system reaction to a foreign substance. The antibodies in our immune system overreact, designating a particular allergen as being harmful. Allergies are very common, as 1 in 5 people have some form of allergies.[1] Causes of allergies, along with their reactions vary widely, with some potentially becoming life-threatening in certain cases.

Common Symptoms: There are a wide variety of allergy symptoms depending on the type of allergen and method of contact with a person. Seasonal allergies are likely to manifest in sinus problems such as a runny and itchy nose, congestion, itchy and runny eyes, conjunctivitis, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, excessive mucus, and itchy throat. Food allergies may consist of skin rashes, hives, difficulty swallowing due to swelling of the lips, face, throat; anaphylaxis which is a potentially life-threatening attack that constricts the airway, causes very low blood pressure, may weaken the pulse, and can result in dizziness or fainting. Skin allergies are characterized by red, itchy patches of skin, burning sensations, scaling, dryness, flakiness, irritation, and pain. Drug allergies may include itchiness, rashes, wheezing, facial swelling, anaphylaxis. Insect bite allergies can cause anaphylaxis, hives, extreme itching or burning sensations, and tingling.[2]

Causes: Allergies are the immune system’s overreaction to a person coming in contact with a substance. Antibodies are then produced as a defense against specific allergens. When these allergens are present, these antibodies produce histamines that are responsible for the symptoms you experience. Each allergy type is triggered by certain common allergens, for example: seasonal allergies are most commonly triggered by airborne allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and mold. The most common food allergens are: dairy products, peanuts, soy, shellfish, and wheat. Skin allergies are most often triggered by genetic or immune system factors, but environmental causes can include harsh soaps, contact with certain chemicals, nickel, and cleaning products. Certain medications or drugs can also prompt histamine responses, especially penicillin and antibiotics.

Treatment: Allergy treatment varies depending on the type of allergen. This can range from avoiding allergens altogether, to using OTC histamine blockers such as Benadryl and Claritin when an encounter is unavoidable.[3] OTC eye drops and nasal sprays are also frequently used to combat symptoms. A doctor can perform skin tests and blood tests to determine what you’re allergic to and prescribe anti-allergy medications and/or shots to decrease immune system reaction. Immunotherapy may be recommended by your doctor. This is a series of injections or sublingual tablets of purified allergen extracts which are known to boost your immunity.

 
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References

[1] https://www.webmd.com/allergies/default.htm
[2] https://medlineplus.gov/allergy.html
[3] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351503