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Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America 800.7.ASTHMA (727.8462)


An allergy is an immune system problem to a substance (allergen) that is normally harmless. An allergen can be inhaled, swallowed, or come in contact with the skin.

Signs &




to Ask

Self-Care /


For Common Allergies

Image of man with allergies.

•  Sneezing. Watery eyes. Cold symptoms that last longer than 10 days without a fever. Dark circles under the eyes.

•  Frequent throat clearing. Hoarseness. Coughing or wheezing.

•  Skin rash.

•  Loss of smell or taste.

•  Ear and sinus infections occur again and again.

Signs of a Severe Allergic Reaction

•  Shortness of breath. A hard time breathing or swallowing. Wheezing.

•  Severe swelling all over, or of the face, lips, tongue, and/or throat.

•  Feeling dizzy, weak, and/or numb.

•  Pale or bluish lips, skin, and/or fingernails.

•  Cool, moist skin or sudden onset of pale skin and sweating.

•  Fainting. Decreasing level of awareness.

•  Allergic rhinitis. This is caused by breathing allergens from animal dander; dust; grass, weed and tree pollen; mold spores, etc.

•  Asthma.

•  Food allergies. Common ones are milk, fish, nuts, wheat, corn, and eggs.

•  Skin allergies.

Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction. It occurs within minutes of exposure. It worsens very fast. It can lead to anaphylactic shock and death within 15 minutes if emergency medical care is not received.


Insect stings, nuts, penicillin, and shellfish are common causes of a severe allergic reaction.

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How are allergies treated? Avoid the allergen(s). Skin tests can identify allergens. Allergy shots may be prescribed. Medications can prevent and relieve symptoms. Persons who have had a sudden, severe allergic reaction may be prescribed medicine, such as an EpiPen. This is used for a severe reaction before getting emergency medical care.

Image of items to treat allergies.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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