An allergen is a substance which causes a physical reaction in some people. Allergens can come from plants, animals, insects, dust mites, mold spores,foods, makeup, lotions, and certain metals, just to name a few. An allergen can be ingested orally, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. A person will usually develop an allergy over time and after repeated exposure to an allergen. A person's environment, the condition of their immune system, and their general state of health will determine how they react to an allergen. Exposure to an allergen can result in a wide variety of symptoms.
Allergies can cause a variety of symptoms depending on what type of allergy it is. Reactions to pollens, mold spores, dust, and other airborne contaminants can include a runny nose, watery eyes, sore throat, increased mucus production, and inflammation of the airways. Skin reactions can result in hives, welts, intense itching, and inflamed, red rashes. In severe allergic reactions, anaphylaxis can be life threatening. Bee stings and allergic reactions to certain foods can cause the airway to become inflamed, so quickly that breathing becomes extremely difficult. EpiPens are prescribed for children and adults who have severe anaphylactic reactions to allergens.
Allergies are not necessarily cured. Instead, the allergens are avoided as much as possible and the symptoms are treated and controlled through various types of medications including antihistamines, nasal and systemic steroids and leukotriene inhibitors. Allergy shots or oral drops can strengthen the immune system to certain allergens, reducing the severity of a child’s or adult's symptoms. Antihistamines, decongestants, and eye drops are often prescribed to help people cope with the symptoms of allergies. Individuals who suffer from anaphylactic shock when exposed to an allergen need to carry an EpiPen that can be used immediately if they happen to be exposed.
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