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Allergies 101: All About Allergic Reactions

January 6, 2023
by Reena Patel, DO

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ALLERGIC REACTIONS 

If you’re prone to allergies, you’re not alone. Allergies are relatively common with more than 50 million Americans suffering from them each year, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. That number alone increases the likelihood of you or someone you know having an allergic reaction at some point.  

Here’s what you need to know about allergic reactions and how to help someone who might be experiencing one.

WHAT CAUSES AN ALLERGIC REACTION?

Our immune systems have one job: to protect our bodies. An allergic reaction is your immune system’s defense against what it believes to be a threat. Sometimes, our bodies have reactions to normally harmless substances such as latex, mold, insect stings, and pollen. Your body may respond to certain allergens, which leads to a chain of events causing the allergic reaction. 

Common Allergy Triggers

Allergy triggers can vary from person to person, but these are some of the most common ones:

HOW TO IDENTIFY AN ALLERGIC REACTION 

An allergic reaction can manifest in several different ways, and the symptoms can range in severity. If you’re having a mild allergic reaction, you might experience:

  • A runny, itchy nose.
  • Sneezing.
  • Itchy, watery eyes.

These are some of the more common, less severe allergic reactions. For more information, see our list of allergy symptoms.

Woman injecting herself epinephrine  with an EpiPen
If you’re prone to allergies, you’re not alone. Allergies are relatively common with more than 50 million Americans suffering from them each year, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

WHEN IS AN ALLERGIC REACTION AN EMERGENCY?

While symptoms can vary, it’s important to recognize sign and symptoms of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis that requires immediate medical attention. Every second counts with this type of allergic reaction, which can cause someone to go into shock. Seek emergency medical care if you or a loved one is experiencing at least one of the following symptoms of anaphylaxis:

  • Irregular or difficulty breathing.
  • Inability to swallow.
  • Dizziness. 
  • Heart palpitations or chest tightness.
  • Mental confusion.
  • Loss of consciousness and fainting.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Nausea or vomiting. 
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhea.

HOW TO HELP SOMEONE EXPERIENCING ANAPHYLAXIS

Here are some steps you should take if you are with someone who’s experiencing anaphylaxis:

  • Immediately call 911 for help—even if their symptoms seem to be improving.
  • While keeping them calm, check to see if they have an EpiPen, or epinephrine auto-injector.
  • Help them lie on their back
  • Do not give them oral medications or anything to drink.
  • Carefully raise their feet about 12 inches off the ground.
  • Turn them on their side if they are vomiting to avoid choking. 
  • When the ambulance arrives, give the medical professionals on the scene as much information as possible without crowding them.

Reena Patel, DO
Medically Reviewed By: Reena Patel, DO
Reviewed on: Dec. 19, 2022

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