An allergic reaction happens when your body’s immune system begins producing antibodies against a foreign substance, such as dust, pollen, or a certain food or medication.
The severity of an allergic reaction varies from person to person. Most allergic reactions are mild, but a severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening. Seek medical attention immediately for a severe rash, shortness of breath, swelling of the air passages, or symptoms of shock. See Anaphylactic Shock below.
Some allergy symptoms appear immediately. Other symptoms only appear over time, after repeated exposure. Allergy symptoms depend on the substance that triggered the allergic reaction:
Airborne substances like dust, pollen, pet dander, dust mites
Food allergies to certain foods, such as shellfish, nuts, chocolate, strawberries, or mangoes
Allergies to insect bites
Allergies to latex, metals, detergents and soaps
Allergy symptoms can be relieved with over-the-counter antihistamines and itching cream. In severe cases, a doctor might prescribe steroids, cortisone cream, or a stronger medication. However, to prevent the allergy symptoms from coming back, you must identify and avoid the substance that triggered the allergy.
Anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, can be triggered by any of the substances mentioned above. The reaction can lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure and restriction of the airways.
Symptoms of anaphylactic shock appear within minutes or seconds after exposure to an allergen:
Treatment for anaphylactic shock is an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline).
If you or someone you are with has symptoms of anaphylactic shock, seek medical attention immediately. Ask the person if they are carrying an EpiPen or allergy medication, and administer it right away. Keep them warm and comfortable.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. It is information that is generally available. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.