Allergies. We are all impacted by allergies in some way or another. Some of us have severe allergies to foods that can be life-threatening if we do not heed necessary precautions, while others just suffer from a runny nose at certain times of the year. No matter the allergy, they can be serious or at least obnoxious and deserve some attention.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergies exist in many different forms. For example, there are food allergies, skin allergies, insect sting allergies, pet allergies, and so on. These various allergies affect an estimated 40 to 50 million people in the U.S. and can interfere with day-to-day activities or lessen the quality of life according to ACAAI.

Allergy symptoms occur when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, which is the thing that causes your reaction. Examples of allergens include plant pollen, dust mites, molds, insect stings, and food. When the body comes into contact with something you are allergic to, the immune system considers the allergen dangerous and releases a chemical called histamine to counteract it. “The release of histamine can cause a variety of symptoms, including a skin rash, headache, sneezing, runny nose, swelling, nausea and diarrhea. The most severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can be life-threatening.” According to the ACAAI website.

There are three steps to determining an appropriate treatment for your allergies. The first is a consultation. In this step, your primary care physician will refer you to a board-certified allergist-immunologist, or you may find one on your own by visiting . Step two includes testing. Your allergist will obtain a detailed medical history, examine you, and evaluate your symptoms. Skin tests or blood tests may be needed to precisely pinpoint your allergy. Finally, in the last step, a treatment for your allergy is determined. Sometimes treatment is a periodic allergy shot, sometimes medicine, sometimes immunotherapy, and so on.

Allergies, though most common in children, can occur at any time and any age, according to the ACAAI website. Sometimes they go away, but they also resurface years later. Symptoms of allergies can be as simple as a runny nose but can also be life threatening. It is important to understand what the body is allergic to and know how to treat an allergic reaction should it surface. For more information visit the ACAAI or consult with your doctor.