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Allergy Awareness Week: 8 Signs of an Allergic Reaction

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6 Minutes

Are you feeling a bit under the weather, as though you have a sudden burst of hay fever or an intense cold? You might be having an allergic reaction. But how can you tell if you’re suffering from an allergic reaction?

We’ve listed the 8 signs of an allergic reaction below. Give it a read to see if your symptoms match.

What Is An Allergic Reaction?

Your body's immune system is responsible for keeping you safe against viruses and bacteria. However, there might be times when your "defence system" overreacts and attacks harmless foreign substances, called allergens, that enter the body.

Examples of these allergens include:

  • Bee stings
  • Certain plants
  • Moulds
  • Pollen
  • Certain foods (i.e. shellfish, nuts)
  • Pet hair/fluff
  • Certain medications (i.e. aspirin)
  • Dust

During an allergic reaction, your immune system releases certain antibodies that tell your cells to stop the allergen. In response, cells targeted by your antibodies release a substance called histamine along with other chemicals. These antibodies only target a specific allergen. That’s why some people are allergic to nuts while others are allergic to moulds.

Allergens usually enter your body through your mouth, nose, skin, and eyes. Depending on the point of entry, these allergens can cause nasal congestion, rashes, or an upset stomach.

What Are The Common Signs Of An Allergic Reaction?

Sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish an allergic reaction from the common cold. So, we've outlined below the most common signs of an allergic reaction to help you understand what you might be dealing with.

1. You experience a dry cough

When it comes to colds and allergies, throat symptoms can be hard to distinguish. But there’s a telltale difference between the two. If you are coughing up mucus, you most likely have a cold. People suffering from an allergic reaction rarely develop a productive cough. They develop a dry cough, instead.

2. Your mucus is watery or clear

Speaking of mucus, both colds and allergies start with clear liquid mucus. However, as symptoms continue, your mucus will start getting thicker and yellowish with a cold. If your mucus stays clear and watery, it’s more likely to be allergies.

3. You have itchy and watery eyes

According to Dr David Rosenstreich of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Centre, allergies are most likely to cause watery and itchy eyes than colds. Although, the latter may also cause some redness or discomfort around the eyes. Your eyes tend to tear up to wash away pollens and other allergens.

In some cases, an allergic reaction may also cause some swelling or puffiness around your eyes. This happens because your eyes have protective cells, known as mast cells, which produce histamine to fight off allergens.

4. You don’t have a fever

A fever is a telltale sign that something bad is happening in your body - almost always an infection. Allergies can elevate your body temperature but they rarely cause any fever, unlike the common cold and the flu.

5. You can still stand up

The muscle aches and joint pains caused by colds and flu can send you to bed for days! Allergies, on the other hand, are not as bad. Yes, it can make you feel tired and run-down but at the end of the day, you still have the energy to do your daily routines.

6. You have hives

Hives, medically known as Urticaria, is characterized by patches of swollen, pale red bumps on your skin. Hives appear suddenly and are often caused by allergies. It causes itching as well as a burning or stinging feeling and can appear anywhere on your body.

Hives can be as small as a coin or as large as a plate. Small patches may join together to form plaques and can last for hours or days. Hives are mostly triggered by allergic reactions from insect bites, food (i.e. nuts, fish, eggs, berries, milk, and tomatoes), and certain medications.

The best way to treat hives is by removing the trigger or cause of allergy.

7. You have diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be another sign of an allergic reaction to certain foods like shrimp, crab peanuts, egg, peanuts, soy, and milk. It is your body's natural response to get rid of the food that it mistakenly identifies as harmful.

8. Your symptoms don’t disappear

On average, cold symptoms hang around for a week. Allergy symptoms, on the other hand, linger as long as the allergen that triggers it is still present. You will feel almost instantly better once you are no longer exposed to the allergen. It’s easy if it’s just someone else’s pet. The challenge is when it’s caused by pollen, dust mite, or moulds.

Anaphylaxis: What you Need to Know

Allergies can be serious and life-threatening when left unchecked. It could lead to a condition called anaphylaxis - a severe allergic reaction to food or medication. Anaphylaxis can cause symptoms of low pulse, rash, and shock called anaphylactic shock. Contact your doctor immediately if you encounter any of these symptoms.

How to Treat an Allergic Reaction

Most allergy symptoms are mild and don’t require urgent medical care. Allergic reactions don’t go away until the trigger is removed and you are no longer exposed to the allergen.

You can control your symptoms by heading to an online pharmacy, taking antihistamines, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting enough rest.

Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamine in your body. They work within 30 minutes and provide relief for hours. Depending on your symptoms, you can take an antihistamine every day to keep your symptoms checked. Antihistamines are more effective when taken regularly as a preventive measure rather than taking it when you already have symptoms.