False Alarm Season

Allergic reactions are your body trying to defend itself

Spring is near, and therefore so are allergens. These are the substances that can be either breathed in, swallowed, or touch your skin. Things like dust and pollen are mild, but your immune system doesn’t always know that. Reacting to the false alarm, the body sends out defenses for harmful things such as viruses.

Some of the most common allergens are:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Household dust and dust mites
  • Animal dander
  • Latex
  • Food
  • Medicine
  • Bug stings

Allergic reactions happen where the immune system stands ready to fight off that advance—skin, eyes, nose, throat, stomach, and lungs.

This is why the reactions often cause:

  • Stuffy, sneezing, itching, or runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Skin rashes, hives or itchy welts
  • Asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing

In extreme cases, allergic reactions can cause what is known as anaphylactic shock. This is potentially life-threatening as it could cause tissues in the throat to swell, a sudden drop in blood pressure, or difficulty breathing.

Allergies can affect anyone. To diagnose an allergy, your doctor will give a physical exam, get your medical history, and may do skin and blood tests.

The three most effective ways to treat allergies are:

  • Avoidance of the allergen
  • Allergy shots
  • Medicine

Don’t just grin and bear your way through allergy season. Talk with you doctor about treating and managing the symptoms of allergies. And don't curse your immune system. It may be reacting to a false alarm, but it's just trying to do its job.

Source: The Health Library at www.sjchs.org/health-library

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