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Behind The Scenes of Allergic Reactions

Written by Courteney

Posted on May 4, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Nearly 50 million Americans suffer some form of allergies. An allergy is hypersensitivity, or overreaction of the immune system to a normally harmless substance that the body deems harmful. Symptoms range in severity from itching and runny noses to swelling, a coma or even death.


Allergies can be triggered by any number of substances. Common allergens include pollens, insect stings, dust mites, pet dander, medications and food. The main food triggers, dubbed ‘The Big 8’, are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, crustaceans, fish, soy and wheat. People can also be allergic to very strange things such as water (see our post “Strange But True Allergies”).

Topical Reactions

Some allergic reactions only affect the skin (epidermis), these are called topical reactions. They are often caused by an allergen or irritant coming in contact with the skin and may include itching, a rash or urticaria (hives) on any area of the skin. It may also cause warmth and light swelling.

Allergic Rhinitis Reactions

Also known as ‘hey fever’, allergic rhinitis is an allergy to pollen, ragweed or other plant-based substances. It is usually comprised of a runny nose, itchy, swollen, bloodshot eyes (conjunctivitis), sneezing, congestion or light wheezing.

Anaphylactic Reactions

An anaphylactic response to an allergen is the most severe type of allergic reaction, it can potentially be deadly. Symptoms include: skin reactions (hives, pale or reddened skin), inability to swallow comfortably (sensation of a lump in the throat), wheezing due to airway constriction, a weak, fast pulse, severe stomach upset such diarrhea or vomiting or syncope (fainting). These symptoms are very troublesome and can lead to severe hypotension (low blood pressure) or even a coma which is known as anaphylactic shock.

Emergency Allergy Protocol

If you or someone else are experiencing anaphylactic symptoms, you need to seek emergency treatment right away. You will have to administer an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) upon initial onset of troubling symptoms and call 911 or an ambulance to get the person to the hospital immediately. If the wait is longer than 10 minutes, the person may require a second autoinjector. Most people who are anaphylactic carry one or two EpiPens, but in the case that the person has an undiagnosed allergy and doesn’t have an autoinjector on them, be sure to call 911 right away.


Aside from the abovementioned treatment for severe reactions, most allergies are treated with H1 blockers (antihistamines) such as reactine, Benadryl, Chlortripalon or Claritin. Some allergies that include long-term swelling of the stomach or mouth are treated with H2 blockers such as ranitidine. Allergic rhinitis is often treated with decongestant antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids. Topical reactions are usually handled with histamine or steroid creams. Serious reactions are treated with corticosteroids such as prednisone, sometimes in IV or injection form.

There you have it, behind the scenes of different allergic reactions! If you have any questions or concerns about allergies, sign up to DocChat today for a video consultation with one of our highly skilled physicians. They are excellent at handling continuing care of allergies.






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