About Allergies

An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a substance that is harmless to most people. In someone with an allergy, the substance, or allergen, triggers the immune system to treat it as a harmful substance. The immune system releases chemicals that cause an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction can be different for each person. These symptoms can include itchy eyes or itchy nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, throat tightness, trouble breathing or even shock (fainting or passing out). A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis.

There are several different types of allergies:

  • Seasonal Allergies

      Seasonal allergies, sometimes called “hay fever” or seasonal allergic rhinitis, are allergy symptoms that occur during certain times of the year. Examples of seasonal allergies are tree pollens, weeds and grasses. People who have never had seasonal allergies in the past can still develop them.

      If your child develops a “cold” around the same time every year, he could have seasonal allergies. Allergy symptoms, which usually come on suddenly and last as long as the person is exposed to that particular allergen, can include:

      - Sneezing
      - Itchy nose and/or throat
      - Stuffy nose
      - Clear, runny nose
      - Coughing
      - Itchy, red and/or watery eyes 

      Seasonal allergies may also trigger asthma. There is no real cure for seasonal allergies, but it is possible to reduce your child’s symptoms. The best way to do this is to avoid exposure to allergens whenever possible.

      Your doctor may also suggest medications to control your child’s symptoms.

      - If you suspect your child suffers from seasonal allergies, request allergy testing to help identify their specific allergies.

      - If your child is allergic to pollen, keep all car and house windows closed and use the air conditioning during pollen season.

      - Be aware of the pollen count for your child’s allergies are high. If your child also has asthma, he may need pretreatment before playing outside on high-pollen days.

  • Year-Round Allergies

      Year-round allergies are allergy symptoms that can occur anytime during the year. Examples of year-round allergies are molds, pets and animals, and dust mites. Year-round allergy symptoms can include:

      - Sneezing
      - Itchy nose and/or throat
      - Stuffy nose
      - Clear, runny nose
      - Coughing

      Year-round allergies may also trigger asthma. There is no real cure for year-round allergies, but it is possible to reduce your child’s symptoms.

      The best way to do this is to avoid exposure to allergens whenever possible. Your doctor may also suggest medications to control your child’s symptoms.

      - If you suspect your child suffers from seasonal allergies, request allergy testing to help identify their specific allergies.

      -Refer to our list of triggers for more information about controlling specific year-round allergens.

  • Food Allergies

      The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology estimates that up to 2 million, or 8 percent, of kids in the U.S. are affected by food allergies. Eight foods account for most of those food allergy reactions in kids: eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat.

      Food allergy reactions can be different for each person. Some can be very mild and only involve one part of the body, like hives on the skin. Others can be more severe and involve more than one part of the body. Reactions can occur within a few minutes or up to a few hours after contact with food.

      Some of the first signs that a person may be having an allergic reaction could be a runny nose, an itchy skin rash such as hives, or a tingling in the tongue or lips. Other signs include:

      - Tightness in the throat
      - Hoarse voice
      - Wheezing
      - Cough
      - Nausea
      - Vomiting
      - Stomach pain
      - Diarrhea

      A serious allergic reaction with widespread effects on the body is known as anaphylaxis.
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