Allergies

Seasonal allergies are common and normally not harmful.

Seasonal allergies are caused by an immune system reaction.

Your immune system normally protects your body against harmful bacteria and viruses. If you have seasonal allergies, this system reacts strongly to harmless pollens. Seasonal allergies are also sometimes called hay fever.

Symptoms

Symptoms of seasonal allergies occur when your body releases the chemical histamine.

Some symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Puffy eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Both genes and environment play a role in seasonal allergies. The immune system normally protects the body against harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses. It also reacts to foreign substances called allergens, which are generally harmless and in most people do not cause a problem.

But in a person with allergies, the immune response is oversensitive. When it recognizes an allergen, the immune system launches a response. Chemicals such as histamines are released. These chemicals cause allergy symptoms.

Common allergens include:

  • Drugs
  • Dust
  • Food
  • Insect venom
  • Mold
  • Pet and other animal dander
  • Pollen

Some people have allergy-like reactions to hot or cold temperatures, sunlight, or other environmental triggers. Sometimes, friction (rubbing or roughly stroking the skin) will cause symptoms.

While allergies are not generally hereditary if both your parents have allergies, you are also likely to have allergies. The chance is greater if your mother has allergies.

Allergies may make certain medical conditions, such as sinus problems, eczema, and asthma, worse.

Treatment

Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) need to be treated with a medicine called epinephrine, which can be lifesaving when given right away. If you use epinephrine, call 911 and go straight to the hospital.

The best way to reduce symptoms is to avoid what causes your allergies. This is especially important for food and drug allergies.

There are several types of medications to prevent and treat allergies. Which medicine your doctor recommends depends on the type and severity of your symptoms, your age, and overall health.

Illnesses that are caused by allergies (such as asthma, hay fever, and eczema) may need other treatments.

Prognosis (Outcome)

Most allergies can be easily treated with medication.

Some children may outgrow an allergy, especially food allergies. However, once a substance has triggered an allergic reaction, it usually continues to affect the person.

Allergy shots are most effective when used to treat people with hay fever symptoms and severe insect sting allergies. They are not used to treat food allergies because of the danger of a severe reaction.

Allergy shots may need years of treatment, but they work in most cases. However, they may cause uncomfortable side effects (such as hives and rash) and dangerous outcomes (such as anaphylaxis).