Your immune system identifies harmful substances that enter your body then destroys them. The first time it recognizes a dangerous substance, it produces antibodies so the immune system can react immediately the next time your body detects it.
An allergy begins when your immune system reacts to a substance that’s harmless, labeling it as an enemy. Then every time that substance — the allergen — enters or touches your body, your body releases histamines, causing an allergic reaction.
You can develop allergies to many different allergens. Some of the most common include:
- Contact allergens: Poison ivy, soap, latex
- Airborne allergens: Pollen, mold, dust
- Insect stings: Bees, wasps, hornets
- Pet allergies: Dogs, cats, pets with fur
- Medications: Many possible medications; penicillin is the most common
- Food allergies: Peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish
Allergies often cause nasal congestion and ear infections in young children, which can make it hard to distinguish the symptoms from a common cold. Otherwise, the most common allergy symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Congested nose
- Itchy nose, eyes, or mouth
- Swollen tongue or face
- Watery eyes
- Skin rashes, hives, scaling, or swelling at site of insect sting
- Upset stomach, cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea (food allergies)
One in 13 children have a food allergy, and the only treatment is to avoid the food that’s responsible. Peanuts, milk, and eggs are the most common food allergens in children, but eight types of foods are responsible for 90% of allergies. The other five foods are wheat, tree nuts, soy, shellfish, and fish.
Food allergies can trigger a severe reaction, called anaphylaxis, that impairs breathing, lowers blood pressure, and may be life-threatening. Peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are most likely to cause anaphylaxis.
You must get an allergy test to identify your allergens before you can begin treatment. Consider allergy testing when you have:
- Chronic sinus infections or difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, or a tight chest
- No relief from over-the-counter medicines
- Allergy symptoms lasting several months
- Allergies that hamper normal life
- Asthma attacks that worsen or occur more frequently
If you suspect you or anyone in your family has an allergy, call the office or book an appointment online with Boerne Family Medicine for an evaluation and testing.