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What is an Allergy?

An Allergy is a sensitivity or specific reaction to something inhaled, swallowed, or something that comes in contact with the skin. Allergic substances are called allergens. Common Allergens include: pollens, wool, dyes, medicines, feathers, molds, dust, food, insect stings, and animal dander.

What Causes an Allergy

When an allergen is absorbed into the body, the blood produces antibodies. The antibodies react with the allergens to produce histamines. Histamines cause inflammation in the nose, eyes, lungs, skin and digestive system, etc.

Common Reactions include:

  • Hay fever: sneezing, itching, nasal drainage, burning throat, etc
  • Allergic rhinitis: nasal congestion and drainage, and sneezing
  • asthma: coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing
  • Allergic dermatitis: itchy rashes, etc.
  • Contact dermatitis: rash caused by direct contact with substances


FIRST: Try to identify the source(s) of the allergy and avoid them Avoid going outside when pollen counts are high. Early in the morning is the worst. Avoid active exercise outside during your worst seasons. Try indoor aerobic activities and swimming. Because most of us cannot avoid pollens, it helps to take a shower before going to bed. Clear bedroom of items that can collect dust. Consider purchasing an air filter. Eliminate foods that are known to cause problems.
NEXT: Over the counter antihistamines and decongestants can provide temporary relief. READ LABELS and follow precautions. If drowsiness is a problem, consider getting
medical advice.

When to Seek Medical Advice

  • When over the counter medications aren't helping/causing drowsiness
  • When your allergies are getting in the way of your studying, going to class, or functioning of your daily routine
  • When a secondary infection might have developed: Fever of over 101°F for 24 hours
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anything else that doesn't seem right

Allergies vs. Cold

Itchy eyes, nose and throat are characteristic of allergies. Fever sore throat, muscle aches are characteristic of upper respiratory infections. Allergy symptoms usually disappear when treated with antihistamines, while fever, sore throat will not be affected. Allergy symptoms usually worse in the mornings during spring and summer when pollen counts are high. Also, allergies can come and go with the weather, lingering on and off. Upper respiratory infections are usually uninterrupted and gone in about 14 days.