Search our physician directory for help finding a doctor who is right for you.
Allergies are the immune system’s adverse reaction to a foreign substance, treating it as a foe even if it’s not. The immune system is designed to produce antibodies that protect the body from harmful invaders, such as the flu virus, but allergic reactions happen when antibodies are sent to fight nonlethal substances (allergens) that are misidentified as lethal.
There are many types of allergies. Allergic reactions can be merely annoying, such as sneezes from hay fever. They can also be life-threatening.
Certain foods and insect venom cause anaphylaxis, a reaction that lowers blood pressure, inhibits breathing and can make the sufferer lose consciousness.
Allergies are quite common, as about one in five people suffer from them. Allergens can be in the air, such as pollen, pet dander, mold spores or dust mites; in drugs, notably penicillin; in many foods, including milk, eggs, peanuts, bread, soy and shellfish; and in insect stings and latex.
Allergies commonly start in childhood, but can develop anytime in life. Symptoms can disappear, but also return. People with asthma are prone to allergies. Allergies can’t be cured, but they can be treated.