A Crash Course on Allergic Reactions
Allergies are common among many different types of substances and many different kinds of people. Pollen, nuts, medications, and even certain kinds of fabric can all be considered allergens, and each may result in different reactions with different levels of severity.
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies are most often caused when the body reacts with specific chemicals, called allergens. When faced with an allergen, the immune system acts up and treats it just like any other virus or foreign bacteria, sending out antibodies to fight off the potential threat. However, allergens are not foreign bacteria, so there isn’t much of a threat, to begin with. Allergic reactions stem from how the antibodies work to remove their target, but no one is entirely sure what separates allergens from non-allergens.
Types of Allergic Reactions
In general, there are four types of allergic reactions:
- Type I/Anaphylactic reactions, which are common among people allergic to pollen, dust, pet dander, and foods. Anaphylactic reactions are the most severe kind of reaction and are what often come to mind when people think of allergies. These reactions vary in severity, with those on the lower end of the scale leaving people with runny noses and on the higher end, anaphylactic shock. Common symptoms include:
- Itching, swelling, and rashes
- Coughing, nausea, or vomiting
- Swelling around the lips and eyes
- Swelling in the airways
- Type II/Cytotoxic reactions, which are most often seen in patients with immune disorders like anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia.
- Type III/Immunocomplex reactions are seen in other diseases like lupus and serum sickness. In type III reactions, the immune system forms an immunocomplex in reaction to an allergen.
- Type IV/Cell-Mediated reactions can occur between 24 and 72 hours after exposure to an allergen. These reactions can be seen in long-term infections like fungal infection or tuberculosis. Sometimes, skin sensitivity reactions can be affected by cell mediation as well.
When to Get Help
Typically, it is best to get help with an allergic reaction as soon as possible, especially if you or a loved one has never had an allergic reaction before, or has a history of severe allergic reactions. Unless someone is absolutely certain their allergic reaction will not result in anaphylactic shock, calling an ambulance is ideal.
Some common allergens like pollen and pet dander may not cause a severe reaction, so it is always best to speak with your doctor if any symptoms of allergies arise when exposed to a given substance.
For more information about allergies and how they may affect you, speak with your doctor. To browse medical products that come allergy-free, visit the Medical Supply Depot.