Experts estimate that some 40-50 million Americans have allergies and/or asthma. If you find yourself sneezing with watery eyes and an itchy, running nose, you may have hay fever, a very common allergy to pollen. Other common allergic reactions are to food — tingly mouth, swelling of the mouth, tongue, face, or throat, hives or anaphylaxis — dust mites, dander, or insect stings.
At Apex Medical Center we provide allergy testing to find out exactly why you’re reacting, but in many cases you can narrow it down yourself. Our experts can help you understand your allergies and their triggers, and give you advice on avoiding them or finding an appropriate treatment. This post offers some general information about common allergies and what you can do about them.
One of the most common allergens, pollen is especially plentiful in the spring and summer. Whether you react to grass or you suffer most from ragweed, you probably have similar symptoms if you’re allergic to pollen, such as:
- Runny stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes, nose, mouth
- Watery, red, or swollen eyes
Although symptoms are generally temporary and not usually life threatening, you may be extremely uncomfortable. You may benefit from over-the-counter decongestants or antihistamines, but you should discuss them with your doctor first to make sure they’re safe for you to take.
Keeping your windows closed and staying inside as much as possible may help. If you must mow the grass, a mask may help. Wash your hands often, and wear a hat and sunglasses when outdoors.
If you tend to have allergy symptoms inside throughout the year, you may be allergic to dust mites. Dust mite allergies are similar to those caused by a pollen allergy.
You may need to wash your sheets more often or use dust mite covers on your pillows and mattress. Nasal sprays, antihistamines, or decongestants are common treatments for dust mite allergies.
Dander is made up of tiny flakes of skin from dogs, cats, or birds. Many people are allergic to animal dander. The symptoms are similar to those of allergies to pollen or dust mites.
If you visit a friend who has pets and develop symptoms you have strong evidence of an allergy to dander. Or, if you have pets at home and notice your symptoms dissipate while you’re on vacation, you may have a dander allergy.
Avoidance is the best treatment, but sometimes keeping your pet off your furniture or out of your bedroom may help. Regular baths for your pet, especially if someone without an allergy does it, may help. Medications may also be beneficial.
If you’re stung by an insect and develop a large area of swelling, itching, or hives all over your body, or you feel tightness in your chest or shortness of breath, you probably have an allergy.
Insect stings can be dangerous because you may not know you’re allergic until your stung and because no one plans stings — it’s not like you wouldn’t avoid a sting if you could!
When allergies are dangerous
A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and it can be life threatening. If you develop reactions like swelling of your tongue or throat that make it difficult to breathe, shortness of breath, wheezing, or other severe symptoms, call 911.
If you know that your allergies are severe, or you have any indication that they may be, it’s important to be evaluated so that you can be prescribed an epinephrine injector to use in the case of a reaction.
Even if your allergies are mild, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor. They may be able to help you understand which over-the-counter medications will work best for you or to give you tips on how to better avoid your triggers. Schedule an appointment at Apex Medical Center today to learn more about allergies.