Man with AllergiesYou will know if you have severe allergies by certain signs and symptoms. A severe reaction can actually cause unconsciousness or shock. Allergies can range from mild to severe and many doctors define severe allergies as those that interfere with your life.

Many people suffer from allergies of some type or another. Some are caused by food or medication, while others are seasonal and only occur during certain times of the year. If your symptoms are severe, there are things that you can do to help control them.

What are allergies?

Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to something that is harmless to many other people. With normal people, this substance is dealt with and you don’t have any symptoms or reactions. In others, the substance is treated as an invader and the immune system does what it can to fight it off. This leads to symptoms, which may be mild and annoying or potentially harmful.

Who is susceptible to allergies?

Not everyone has allergies. According to Kids Health, genetics play a role in who is more susceptible to allergies. However, particular allergies are not necessarily passed down; rather, the likelihood of getting allergies is higher.

Someone who is allergic to something tends to have a greater chance of being allergic to other things as well. Other people who do not have allergies in their family may go their entire life without experiencing allergic symptoms.

What types of allergies are there?

Allergies can occur in different ways and to different things. Airborne allergies tend to be the most common types of allergies. These include allergies to pollen, dust mites, molds, cockroaches, and pets.

Allergies to food have become more prevalent over recent years. There are eight different foods that are the most common for allergies, especially in kids. These are fish, eggs, peanuts, milk, soy, shellfish, wheat, and tree nuts.

Some people are allergic to insect stings and certain chemicals in laundry detergents and cosmetics. Certain medications, especially antibiotics, can also cause allergic reactions.

What are the symptoms of allergies?

Depending on the allergy, the symptoms of the reaction will vary, according to the Mayo Clinic.  With airborne allergies, the most common symptoms are a runny and itchy nose; congestion; and swollen, watery, or itchy eyes.

Food allergies result in different reactions. There may be tingling of the mouth or hives on certain parts of your body. There may be swelling of the face, tongue, lips, or throat. In severe cases, anaphylaxis can occur, which is an emergency situation.

An allergy from an insect sting will usually result in swelling and edema at the site of the sting. Many will experience hives or itching over the entire body, as the insect’s venom affects the entire system. Some will notice chest tightness, cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing. Anaphylactic shock may occur.

If you take a certain medication that you are allergic to you may notice itchy skin, hives, facial swelling, rash, or wheezing. In severe reactions, anaphylaxis can occur. Allergies to certain chemicals may result in itchiness, red skin, and hives.

How can you treat allergies?

If your allergies are at a level of severity that is uncomfortable, there are things that you can do. WebMD reports that, although treatments for allergies don’t actually cure the allergies, they can help to reduce the symptoms.

Decongestants and antihistamines are common treatments for allergy symptoms. Antihistamines help reduce itching eyes and a runny nose, while decongestants help decrease the nasal stuffiness.

Nasal sprays are popular for bringing down inflammation. Some can be obtained over the counter while others, such as nasal steroid sprays and some antihistamines, are by prescription only. There are other prescription medications that can help with allergy symptoms.

For those with allergies that can’t be controlled with medications or other measures, allergy shots can help. Also known as immunotherapy, allergy shots are given more frequently at the beginning of allergy onset, such as twice a week for a number of months. It then tapers off to once a week and then every two to four weeks over a period of years.

You should also work on controlling the environment in which the allergies occur. Rid your house of mold, keep windows closed to cut down on pollen exposure, or keep your pets in secluded areas if you can’t part with them.

What should you do with severe reactions?

Although many allergic reactions are mild or moderate and are an annoyance, some people experience severe symptoms. Anaphylactic shock occurs in extreme situations and often occurs from insect stings and food allergies.

The symptoms and signs of anaphylaxis are lightheadedness, a weak and rapid pulse, shortness of breath, skin rash, vomiting, swelling airways, and a loss of consciousness. If these occur you need to get emergency medical attention immediately.

Some who have experienced anaphylaxis in the past carry around an EpiPen or other epinephrine auto-injector. This allows them to give themselves a shot as soon as the allergic reaction begins. Even if you have an EpiPen and use it to prevent anaphylactic shock, you should still visit your doctor or emergency room right after an allergy attack to make sure everything is back to normal.

Allergies are never fun to have but severe allergies can alter your life―and even end it―if you do not get the proper treatment quickly enough. Do your best to avoid things that knowingly cause allergic reactions and get treatment if necessary.