Allergies are a common health complication experienced across populations, affecting nearly 50 million people in the United States on an annual basis alone. Ranging in symptomatology and severity, allergies can be an otherwise mild impediment or severe concern for an individual’s health and well-being.
Because it’s the job of the immune system to protect the body from anything foreign that is identified as an intruder, allergic reactions are often the result. The process is designed to both set a biological alarm and defend the body against what is seen as an attack. These reactions can range from general inflammation to a higher level of other symptoms.
In what follows, we’ll be exploring the different potential symptoms associated with allergies, ranging from a mild fever and runny nose to sinusitis, asthma, and reactive airway disease. Further, we’ll also explore why such symptoms and reactions occur and what can be expected in a medical scenario should these symptoms become a serious concern.
Categorized as an immune system reaction to a foreign substance, allergies tend to be associated with external nonhuman substances such as pollen or animal fur. The many types of allergies include food allergies, pet allergies, plant allergies, dust allergies, mold allergies, and even insect allergies.
In many cases, these allergens aren’t harmful or toxic to a healthy human being. Such examples would be seemingly healthy foods like nuts and butter. Because associative antibodies identify these substances as harmful intruders in individuals who have such an allergy, allergic reactions are the end result.
Again, depending on the individual and type of allergy, symptoms, and severity can range greatly. Most allergenic symptoms, however, include symptoms such as general itchiness, hives, rashes, congestion, and minor swelling of the lymph nodes.
While much of what’s known about allergies and their predictability is related to genetics, there has been no conclusive understanding as to the exact reason why allergies develop in particular individuals.
Common Types of Symptoms
As a bodily reaction to a substance that has been identified as harmful, allergic symptoms are the body’s way of signaling danger.
While allergic reactions comprise several subtypes of symptoms, the following are some of the most common and their etiology.
Otherwise known as hives or chronic hives, urticaria is a very common allergic reaction seen at the level of the skin. Unlike other allergic symptoms such as hay fever, the cause of urticaria is idiopathic, meaning the cause is not yet known or understood.
Hives are identified as the development of red welts at the skin surface. They are caused by the substance histamine, which is triggered by the immune system response to the allergen. Histamine causes dilated small blood vessels and capillary leaking, which will produce the red discoloration and swelling that ensues. Hives also produce significant itchy sensation.
To experience relief from uncomfortable and irritable symptoms of urticaria, antihistamines are the usual treatment. Should symptoms persist and worsen, additional medication may be required.
If a patient has developed a pollen allergy, they will be susceptible to uncomfortable symptoms with the change of seasons due to trees and grass, and this has been called hay fever. Symptoms of hay fever include moderate swelling along the lining of the nasal mucosa, and this process is also mediated by histamine.
Other potential symptoms include sneezing and coughing, itchy eyes with redness, earache, extreme fatigue, and even a loss of smell during the time of the reaction.
If the individual also suffers from secondary complications such as asthma, other symptoms are likely to result, such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, and a dry cough that can last quite a while.
Otherwise referred to as nasal congestion or runny nose, rhinitis is often categorized as an allergic reaction that is again mediated by histamine. Whether due to an external pollutant or viral illness, inflammation occurs, and the symptoms can range in severity from mild to severe.
In some cases, the sinuses can become involved, and inflammation develops in the lining of the sinuses. Mucus then builds up within the sinuses, and this can also lead to possible infection, which can require the treatment of antibiotics.
As mentioned previously, individuals who have asthma as a secondary condition can have exacerbation of their asthma symptoms, and they may require additional treatment on top of their already prescribed therapy.
While not all allergies and associative symptoms are particularly threatening, many can be quite challenging to manage or, at the very least, can become a hindrance to one’s quality of life.
Even if the particular symptoms don’t present a serious threat, those who suffer from secondary and tertiary health conditions, such as asthma, are at greater risk of severe complications, such as anaphylaxis.
Allergies that are managed in a timely fashion by medications prescribed or by lifestyle changes lead to much-improved comfort in the lives of individuals who are affected by this condition.