Allergies are caused by a hyperactive immune system response. Individuals with allergies have an immune response to a usually harmless substance in the environment. This substance (pollen, mold, animal dander, etc.) is called an allergen. Allergies are a very common problem, affecting at least two out of every ten Americans.

Symptoms of Allergies

The common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, runny nose
  • Rashes or hives

Food allergies can cause stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea, and insect stings can cause local swelling, redness, and pain.

Who is at Risk for Allergies?

Anyone with a family or personal history of allergies is at risk, but environmental factors can also play a role.

Allergy Treatment

Specific treatments depend on the specific type of allergy. If you are suffering from one or more of the symptoms listed above, a doctor can help you diagnose the cause and prescribe appropriate treatment.

Emergency Warning Signs

The most severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, and includes:

  • Hives and itching all over the body
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness or tightness in the throat
  • Tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp

Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention; head for the emergency room if you are suffering these symptoms.