Allergies are a response of the immune system which occurs when a substance in the environment known as an allergen gets into contact with a person either through inhaling it, swallowing it, or touching it. When an allergen makes contact the person has an abnormal or excited immune response. Allergies often cause symptoms such as:
Food and insect allergies can cause other symptoms such as vomiting, cramps, local swelling, and pain.
To determine what a person is allergic to and how to treat the symptoms, the doctor will ask questions about the symptoms being experienced and what types of allergens the person could be in contact with. Allergy skin tests and blood tests are used to diagnose the allergy. During an allergy skin test, the doctor will use concentrated extracts of certain allergens to test for a reaction on the skin in the form of a small swelling or redness. When the reaction is present the doctor knows that the person is allergic to that substance. The substance can be made to react with the person’s skin by pricking the top layer of skin or injecting a small amount under the skin. When a food allergy is a concern, it is important for patients to try to identify what they ate which could have caused the reaction. This helps the doctor direct the tests. The allergy causing food usually has to be avoided.
Frequently, medications are available over-the-counter to help with mild allergies. When the allergy symptoms are more severe, the doctor can prescribe other types of medications to help address the issue including:
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