Allergies – what are they exactly? How likely is it that you have any without knowing? And perhaps most importantly, can it be dangerous not to know? We often hear of allergies, and yet this topic is one that most people know precious little about, so let’s dive into some facts that you should be aware of.
What Exactly Are Allergies?
Allergies are a type of immune-system reaction. The immune system normally protects us from harmful substances in the environment, such as bacteria and viruses. But sometimes, it can overreact to harmless things, such as certain foods or pollen from plants. The immune system then releases antibodies to fight the perceived invader. This causes an allergic reaction.
What Sort of Symptoms Can An Allergic Reaction Cause?
The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) estimates that approximately 50 million Americans suffer from allergic diseases! That’s a lot. Allergic reactions can be mild or severe, and there are two main types that people most commonly experience.
Immediate reactions: These occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen and include itching, swelling, and redness of the skin; shortness of breath; dizziness; nausea; diarrhea; abdominal cramps; hives; drop in blood pressure (hypotension); tingling of the tongue; fainting/loss of consciousness; and swelling of the throat (airway). Immediate reactions can also cause a sudden drop in blood pressure with symptoms such as feeling light-headed or fainting/loss of consciousness.
Delayed reactions: These may take hours to days after exposure before they occur and often involve swelling inside the mouth, face, or throat (angioedema). They can also cause swelling of the tongue so that it becomes hard to swallow or speak clearly (stricture).
Can Allergic Reactions Be Fatal?
Yes, they can be. Allergic reactions can be deadly, and they’re more likely to be fatal with certain types of allergies. The most common causes of death from allergic reactions are anaphylaxis, a severe systemic reaction that can affect any organ system, and food allergy-induced asthma, which causes respiratory distress. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment with epinephrine. It can occur in response to medication (such as penicillin), insect stings or bites, latex exposure, and foods such as nuts and shellfish.
Finding Out If You Have Any Allergies
For all of the reasons discussed above, it’s important to get screened and tested for any allergies you may have. Knowing is half the battle because it empowers you to know which things to avoid AND what actions can work to counteract the reaction if you encounter it. And while it may be uncomfortable knowing that something can harm you (for example, when eating out), sparing yourself from having to deal with the consequences of an allergic reaction will greatly outweigh any inconvenience to you or others. At PMN Health & Wellness, we offer full spectrum allergen testing. Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation!