Allergies are a common problem that can affect the respiratory system, skin or even the whole body. Most allergies are harmless in the long term, even though their symptoms may be annoying. Some can be life-threatening, so it's important to know the signs and symptoms and which ones indicate a need for emergency medical treatment.
Allergies are a common condition that occurs when a person's body abnormally reacts to normally harmless substances. These substances, known as allergens, can touch the skin or enter the body through swallowing or inhalation.
The exact cause of allergies is unknown, although Health Scout says there seems to be a genetic component because it often affects many members of the same family. Being bottle fed rather than breast fed as a baby seems to increase the risk.
According to Health Scout, there are several types of common allergies. Hives appear as swellings on the skin, eczema and contact dermatitis cause rashes on the skin, and allergic rhinitis and asthma affect the respiratory symptom. A person can have more than one type of allergy.
Signs and Symptoms
Respiratory allergies cause coughing, congestion, itching in the eyes, nose and throat, and watery eyes that may have dark circles underneath. Skin allergies cause welts, inflammation, redness and itchiness.
Allergies are usually treated by focusing on symptom relief with over-the-counter or prescription medications. For respiratory allergies, these may be pills or inhalants. Skin allergies are usually treated with creams, which may also be combined with oral medication. Desensitization shots may help some people, but they are not a guaranteed cure.
Although allergy signs and symptoms are usually mild, there are certain manifestations that require immediate medical help. These include swelling, a tight chest, trouble breathing, an itchy throat and mouth, flushing, sweating, mental confusion and unconsciousness. These could indicate that a person is having a whole-body allergic reaction, which is often fatal if untreated.