Allergy attacks, or allergic reactions, can be frightening, sudden, and extremely uncomfortable. The reason behind why humans experience allergy symptoms and attacks is still being researched. However, we do know allergy symptoms are triggered when your immune system detects an “intruder,” whether that is pollen, mold, dust, dander, or something else. No matter why you experience allergy attacks, they’re inevitably unpleasant and can even be life-threatening. Be sure to seek out medical care immediately if you believe you’re having a severe allergic reaction.
In order to keep yourself safe and healthy in the long run, it’s important to understand exactly what is happening to your body during an allergy attack, and what steps you can take to mitigate your symptoms. To get you started, we’ve compiled some helpful background information on allergies and instructions for what to do during an allergy attack.
What Is an Allergy Attack?
People have been asking why they have to suffer from allergies since they were first being affected by them. While we still aren’t quite sure what causes some people to experience allergic reactions, we do know what’s happening in the body during an allergy attack: it’s as if your immune system reacts to a false alarm in a severe way, and there’s no way for you to tell it that you aren’t actually in any danger.
The purpose of the immune system is to recognize foreign invaders like bacteria and parasites in your environment. When those foreign bodies are detected, your body’s response is to attack the potentially harmful invaders by creating millions of antibodies—proteins that recognize and neutralize the threat. While creating these antibodies, the immune system is supposed to filter out the antibodies that attack the wrong targets, like your body or dust. But that isn’t always how it goes. When the antibodies react to non-threatening allergens, such as food or pollen, allergy attacks occur.
Symptoms of an Allergy Attack
Because there are so many different types of allergies and potential allergens out there, your allergy symptoms may look very different from another person’s. For example, seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever) typically manifest as sneezing, postnasal drip, a stuffy or runny nose, and a sore throat. Allergies stemming from an insect sting or certain medication, on the other hand, can produce symptoms like swelling, itching, and hives.
Mild allergic reactions are typically just uncomfortable. However, more severe allergic reactions to the same substances are possible. Everyone’s body is different, and what triggers no response or a mild reaction in one person could trigger a severe allergy attack in another. Bee stings, peanuts, and tree nuts are common causes of more serious allergic reactions.
Pay attention to your body, and watch for severe allergy symptoms like:
- Abdominal cramps
- Flushed skin
- Hives, rash
- Wheezing or breathing problems
- Abnormal pulse
- Swelling of the face, lips or throat
- Trouble talking or swallowing
These are symptoms of serious allergic reactions. If you simply have a rash and itching, it is ok to start treatment at home with antihistamines such as Benadryl. If you have more than simple rash and itching, seek care as soon as possible. Anaphylaxis is defined as allergic symptoms in more than one body system and should be evaluated right away. If you are having a severe reaction with trouble breathing, trouble talking or swelling in the mouth, call 911.
Types of Allergies
An allergic reaction can happen when you ingest, touch, or inhale whatever you’re allergic to. For those who suffer from seasonal allergies, just stepping out your front door could be a challenge, because you’ll inevitably be faced with puffy eyes and a runny nose. What’s more, is there may not be anything you can do about it. If both of your parents have allergies, you run a 60-70 percent chance of also having those allergies, and they may not even develop until later in your life.
Let’s take a look at some types of these allergies that can cause an allergy attack. What causes an allergy attack depends on each person’s unique reaction to an invading substance. However, there are a number of common substances that cause allergic reactions:
- Food: Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies in the U.S.
- Any medicine can cause an allergic reaction.
- Insects: Venom from bee, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket stings, fire ants.
- Latex: Found in rubber gloves, balloons, rubber bands, condoms, and more.
- Other allergies: Pet dander, dust, mold, pollen, cockroaches, or even household items like laundry detergents, cosmetics, and hairspray
As you can see, allergies can stem from an incredibly vast number of triggers. Nearly anywhere you go could be chock-full of allergy triggers, so knowing how to treat or diminish symptoms when they occur could be the difference between muddling through and enjoying your day. Which would you prefer?
How You Can Treat Your Allergy Symptoms
When you feel ravaged by allergies, don’t lose all hope. There are a lot of things you can do to minimize the detrimental effects of mild to severe allergies. Whether that involves being armed with an Epinephrine pen, heading to your nearest Urgency Room, or treating your allergies at home with over-the-counter medications, knowing what to do when allergies strike could save you from discomfort or even life-threatening scenarios.
Employ At-Home Allergy Remedies
There are some simple and obvious approaches for avoiding or minimizing allergic reactions. First of all, you can try to avoid your allergens altogether. Symptoms for seasonal allergies can include a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, wheezing, or itching. These types of allergies are mostly encountered outside. Checking your local weather station should tell you what the outdoor air quality is like in your specific area in terms of pollutants. There are resources, however, offered by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) that will also tell you your local pollen and mold report. By checking your immediate air quality reports, you can better prepare for going outdoors.
If you’re very sensitive to outdoor or seasonal allergies, consider taking an antihistamine before heading outside. You may also find a saline rinse helpful in relieving hay fever symptoms. Lastly, minimize airborne allergens, such as pollen and pet dander, in your home by switching out your old air filter for a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
How to Handle Anaphylactic Shock
More severe allergy attacks will not abate with home remedies, and it’s essential that you quickly recognize more serious symptoms, like abdominal cramps and breathing problems. What should you do in the case of anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock?
If you are alone, immediately call 911. Anaphylactic shock happens quickly, and your throat could swell and cut off your supply of oxygen within minutes, causing permanent and serious damage. If you know you are at risk for severe allergic reactions, always carry an Epinephrine pen, or two, with you at all times. Epinephrine quickly reduces and reverses anaphylactic symptoms as it’s comprised of adrenaline. You can never predict when a bee will sting you or a food you’re allergic to wind up on your plate, so take the appropriate steps to protect yourself. You should also make your close friends and family aware of your allergy, so that they can also be on the lookout for severe symptoms and be ready to take the appropriate steps if you’re unable to.
Know What to Do When Allergies Strike
Allergens can sneak into your life on your daily walk, a plate of food, or anywhere in between. You might be born with them or develop them years down the line. Knowing what to do when you or someone you know is having an allergy attack could be the difference between life and death.
When experiencing serious allergy symptoms, heading to your local Urgency Room could bring you relief faster than you thought possible. Our skilled and experienced emergency physicians and nurses are well trained to care for serious allergic reactions. At the UR, we treat the allergy symptoms. Treating and allergic reaction does not require any testing and we do not do allergy testing. We’re dedicated to helping you return to your healthy self as soon as possible.
You don’t have to suffer through your allergies alone. Get the care you need now and the tools you need to avoid future allergy attacks. The Urgency Room operates three convenient Minnesota locations in Eagan, Vadnais Heights, and Woodbury. We’re open 365 days per year from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., including holidays. When minutes matter, especially during an allergy attack, get to The Urgency Room.