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Allergy Attack: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Apr 23, 2024 | 2 min read

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Allergy attacks occur when the immune system overreacts to harmless substances, treating them as threats. Symptoms range from sneezing and itchy eyes to more severe reactions like difficulty breathing and swelling. Understanding the triggers and managing the symptoms is key to handling these attacks effectively. 

What is an allergy attack?

An allergy attack, also known as an allergic reaction, occurs when the immune system reacts to a normally harmless substance as if it is a threat.

Symptoms

  • Sneezing and nasal congestion, often accompanied by a runny or itchy nose.
  • Itchy, watery eyes which may be red and swollen.
  • Skin reactions such as hives, redness, or itching.
  • Difficulty breathing, which may include wheezing or shortness of breath.
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat, which can be particularly dangerous.

An allergy attack can significantly affect daily activities by causing discomfort, reducing productivity, and in severe cases, requiring medical attention to manage acute symptoms.

What causes a sudden allergy attack?

Common allergens that can trigger a sudden allergy attack include:

  • Pollen: Often associated with seasonal allergies, pollen can provoke significant reactions.
  • Dust mites: Tiny organisms found in household dust that can cause year-round allergies.
  • Pet dander: Small flakes of skin shed by cats, dogs, and other furry or feathered pets.
  • Certain foods: Common food allergens include nuts, shellfish, milk, and eggs.
  • Insect stings: Bee and wasp stings are typical triggers for severe allergic reactions.
  • Mold: Spores from mold can trigger respiratory symptoms similar to those caused by other airborne allergens.

These triggers are quite prevalent, as evidenced by recent data from the CDC, which noted that nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults and more than 1 in 4 U.S. children reported having a seasonal allergy, eczema, or food allergy in 2021. 

Exposure to these triggers can lead to the rapid onset of allergy symptoms, which in some cases, may require immediate medical attention.

How to stop an allergy attack?

  • Immediate Actions: As soon as an allergy attack begins, it is crucial to remove yourself from the presence of the allergen, if possible. If nasal or skin symptoms arise, rinsing the area with water can help reduce irritation. For respiratory discomfort, finding a calm environment to relax and breathe deeply may prevent symptoms from worsening.
  • Medications: Common medications to alleviate symptoms during an allergy attack include antihistamines, which can quickly reduce sneezing, itching, and hives. Nasal sprays such as corticosteroids can relieve nasal congestion and inflammation. For severe reactions, an epinephrine auto-injector may be necessary and should be administered as directed.
  • Long-Term Management: To prevent future allergy attacks, it's important to identify and avoid known allergens. This might involve using air purifiers to reduce airborne allergens at home, using hypoallergenic bedding to minimize exposure to dust mites, and adhering to a diet that avoids trigger foods. Regular consultation with an allergist can also provide guidance and updated management strategies.

Signs that necessitate emergency medical intervention include:

  • Difficulty breathing: If breathing becomes labored or wheezy, it might indicate a severe allergic reaction.
  • Rapid swelling of the face, lips, or throat: Swelling in these areas can obstruct airways and is potentially life-threatening.
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure: Symptoms such as dizziness, faintness, or a rapid heartbeat can signal anaphylactic shock.
  • Persistent vomiting or severe abdominal pain: These symptoms can be part of a systemic allergic reaction.
  • Loss of consciousness: Any sudden loss of consciousness during an allergic reaction is a severe and immediate emergency.
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