What is making you sick?

An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system sees a substance as harmful and overreacts to it. The symptoms that result are an allergic reaction.

The substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens.

How allergens get into your body 

  • You can inhale allergens into your nose and your lungs
  • You can ingest allergens by mouth
  • Your body can have allergens injected into it
  • Your skin can absorb allergens.

Common symptoms of an allergy

The severity of symptoms during an allergic reaction can vary widely. Some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction include;

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy or runny nose
  • Rashes or hives (a rash with raised red patches)
  • Vomiting, stomach cramps, bloating or diarrhea
  • Swelling, redness or pain in the affected body part
  • Sneezing or wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe)
  • Chest tightness and losing your breath

Common types of allergies

1. Drug allergy

This is an abnormal reaction of the immune system to a medication. The most common drug allergy is a reaction to penicillin, sulfa drugs, anti-seizure medications, and aspirin.

2. Food allergies

Any food eaten may cause an allergic reaction, but the most common causes are the proteins in cow’s milk, egg white, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

3. Contact dermatitis

A skin rash caused by contact with a certain substance. Common causes include;

  • Soaps and detergents
  • Metals used in jewelry
  • Topical medications, including antibiotics and anesthetics
  • Perfumes or cosmetics
  • Fabrics such as wool and clothing made from such fabrics

4. Latex allergy

This is a reaction to certain proteins found in natural rubber latex, a product made from the rubber tree.

Latex allergy can occur in these ways:

  • Direct contact. The most common cause of latex allergy involves touching latex-containing products, including latex gloves, condoms, diaphragms, rubber bands, toys, balloons etc
  • Latex products, especially gloves, release latex particles, which you can breathe in when they become airborne. The amount of airborne latex from gloves differs greatly depending on the brand of glove used.

5. Animal allergy

This is an abnormal immune reaction to proteins in an animal’s skin cells, saliva or urine. All warm-blooded animals (including birds) may potentially trigger symptoms of allergy. All have the allergenic protein in their skin.


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