Definitions

What are Allergies

An allergy is a sensitivity to a substance that is normally harmless. Flowers, trees, a family pet, or dust are examples of things that can cause an allergy. Even foods like peanut butter, fish, and milk can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people. A substance that triggers an allergy is called an allergen.

People can have different reactions to allergens, even when they are allergic to the same things. For example, an allergen that causes eye inflammation in one person may cause headache in another. Some common reactions a person might experience after contact with an allergen include:

• asthma
• hay fever
• upset stomach
• eye inflammation
• eczema (a skin disease)
• itching
• itching of the roof of the mouth
• itchy ears, nose and throat

 

Anaphylaxis

In rare cases, allergens can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis that can result in shock and can even be life-threatening. Allergens most likely to cause this dangerous response include some foods (such as peanuts and shellfish), drugs, insect stings, and latex. The reaction may begin almost immediately after contact with the substance.

If you or anyone shows signs of anaphylaxis, call for medical assistance immediately. Anyone with life-threatening allergies should always wear medical identification jewelry and carry an Epi-pen® (a self-injecting medication pen).