What is an Allergy?

An allergy is an abnormal or exaggerated immune system response to a typically harmless substance. 1/5 of Americans have at least one known allergy. The substance that triggers this abnormal response is called an allergen – common allergens are pollen, mold, dust, animal dander, and specific foods.

Common Symptoms of Allergies

  • Congestion
  • Rash
  • Itchy/watery eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Itchiness

Allergy symptoms can even be as severe as difficulty swallowing and breathing, extreme swelling, abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness.

Types of Allergies

  • Pollen Allergies– Pollen, tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants is the cause of one of the worst seasonal allergies. When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who is allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive. Hay fever (Allergic Rhinitis) is the most common of the allergic diseases and refers to seasonal nasal symptoms that are due to pollens.
  • Pet Allergies– Pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal’s skin cells, saliva or urine. People with dog allergies may be allergic to all dogs or to only some breeds. Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.
  • Food Allergies – Food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction. Nuts, shellfish, soy and milk are common food allergies.
  • Dust Mite Allergies– Dust mites are microscopic animals that can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible people. Dust mites are one of the most common causes of indoor allergies. They thrive in warm, humid environments where they feed on the dried scales of human skin. This means that they are found most commonly found in bedding, stuffed furniture, carpets, old clothing, and stuffed toys.
  • Mold Allergies– Inhaling the spores of fungi and mold causes allergic reactions in some people. Allergic symptoms from fungus spores are most common from July to late summer. But with fungi growing in so many places, allergic reactions can occur year round.
  • Latex Allergies– Latex allergy is an allergic reaction to substances in natural latex. Rubber gloves are the main source of allergic reactions, although latex is also used in other products.
  • Insect Allergies– When most people are stung by an insect, the site develops redness, swelling and itching. However, some people are actually allergic to insect stings. This means that their immune systems overreact to the venom. Common insect allergies are to yellow jackets, honeybees, wasps, hornets and fire ants.
  • Eye Allergies– Eye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis, is a condition that affects millions of Americans. It is a condition that can occur alone, but often accompanies nasal allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, sniffling and a stuffy nose. Eye allergies often go hand in hand with the other allergic conditions listed above.


Over-the-counter and prescription medications can ease symptoms. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) also help long-term. They usually are recommended for people who suffer from severe allergies or for those who have allergy symptoms more than 3 months each year. They do not cure allergies, but reduce your sensitivity to certain substances.