Most people will suffer from allergies at least at some point of their lives. Some of these people have the symptoms permanently, others only at certain times of the year, and there are those who may have an allergy only when they are in direct contact with the agent that causes the allergic reaction. In most cases though, allergies are chronic, no matter how often they manifest themselves.
Contrary to popular belief, allergies don’t just occur at a certain time of the year. Allergies can be seasonal – yes, but winter allergies are just as real as spring ones.
Allergic reactions and their symptoms
Allergy symptoms will vary from person to person and depend on the allergy itself. Allergic reactions are usually mild, and they tend to develop fairly quickly after exposure – a few minutes or hours, at most. Some reactions may be severe, in which case it is necessary to see a doctor or even go to a hospital immediately.
Allergies can present themselves in many different ways, from pain, to respiratory system and skin reactions.
The respiratory system reactions, which are consistent with allergic rhinitis, are those that are usually associated with seasonal allergens like pollens. Those habitually include a runny or itchy nose and sneezing. Conjunctivitis, or an eye infection that causes the eyes to swell and tear up is also common, as are symptoms similar to asthma, such as wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath.
Digestive system reactions, which are often associated with food allergies, include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. A swollen tongue, lips or face are also consistent with this kind of reaction, and while these are mild symptoms on the surface, they can also indicate something much more serious since some food allergies can be life-threatening.
Cutaneous or skin reactions are also common, but they can vary wildly. A simple itch, rash or patches of red skin are common, as are little red bumps that are usually associated with allergies. However, it is also possible to get big, red hives in large areas of the body or even all over it, in which case the allergy may be more serious than just an average skin reaction and needs proper treatment beyond topical ointments.
A particular case of skin allergy is chronic hives or urticaria. These hives are also caused by an allergy, much like your typical hives caused by an insect bite, for instance, but they tend to last longer or recur more frequently, as the person has an ongoing allergy to a certain element, although they can also appear for other reasons such as anxiety, stress or even for yet unknown or unproven causes.
Chronic hives are red or white skin bumps or wells which can be so small they are almost unnoticeable or as big as dinner plates. They can also appear in any part of the body, in small or big areas, and even form agglomerates known as plaques. They may be a sign of a serious disease, but they are usually non-threatening themselves.
Hives can last a few hours or days, depending on how severe the reaction is and the course of treatment followed. They may also come and go in some cases, especially if the person is exposed to the same element again. They are quite uncomfortable because they become very itchy, plus they can also burn or sting in some cases. It is important to avoid scratching to allow the hives to heal more quickly and avoid infection.
Similar to hives is angioedema. This is a condition where the bumps are under the skin instead of being exposed. It is usually non-threatening, like common hives, but lasts for a longer period of time. However, in some cases, angioedema can manifest internally, inside the mouth, throat or lungs, in which case it can become serious as it might obstruct the airways.
Life-threatening allergic reactions
Lastly, we should also talk about severe allergies, scientifically known as anaphylactic shock. This is the kind of acute allergy experienced by people who are allergic to peanuts or bee stings, for instance.
The symptoms of a severe allergy like this include swelling of the face, mouth and throat, among other possible areas, difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, confusion, and blue skin, possibly caused by asphyxia. Patients with these symptoms should be given first aid with the prescribed SOS medication, if the allergy has been diagnosed. Any patient presenting these severe symptoms should also be taken to an ER immediately.