Allergy season is earlier, and pollen counts are higher than ever before. If you already have allergies, chances are you’re feeling the difference. These changes also mean that many people are feeling the misery of allergy symptoms for the first time.
If over-the-counter medications don’t help or you have severe symptoms, David Leszkowitz, DO, at White Lake Family Medicine, can help. He performs allergy testing, identifies allergens, and creates personalized treatments to ease your symptoms.
Here, we list the telltale signs of seasonal, food, and contact allergies.
Allergies begin when your immune system mistakenly identifies a substance (an allergen) as dangerous (even though it’s not harmful). Then your immune system does its job and tries to neutralize the perceived threat. The chemicals released during the immune attack cause your symptoms.
You can get exposed to allergens through three primary pathways:
1. Inhaled allergens
Most allergies come from inhaled allergens, including:
- Pollen (from trees, grasses, weeds, and flowers)
- Dust mites (microscopic body parts and waste)
- Mold spores
- Pet dander
Pollen allergies, known as allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and seasonal allergies, cause symptoms when trees, grasses, and flowers bloom. However, dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander cause year-round allergies.
2. Contact allergens
You can develop allergies from irritating substances that come into direct contact with your skin, such as:
- Poison ivy and oak
Contact allergens get through your skin and bloodstream, triggering your immune system. This process takes a little time, which means your symptoms appear days after you touch the allergen.
3. Ingested allergens
Food allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to proteins found in foods. The top food allergies come from:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts
Many medicines also cause an allergic reaction.
Telltale signs of a seasonal allergy
Nearly everyone has three telltale signs: a runny nose, sneezing, and puffy or itchy eyes. But you could have any of the symptoms in this list:
- Itchy, watery, or red eyes
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Itchy mouth, throat, or nose
- Drainage down your throat (postnasal drip)
- Dry cough
- Sinus headache
- Sinus congestion
- Dark circles under your eyes
Seasonal allergies often trigger a flareup in people with asthma. If that happens, you will also experience wheezing, chest tightness or pain, and difficulty breathing.
Colds cause similar symptoms, but a cold improves within ten days. A cold may also cause symptoms that don’t occur with allergies, such as a low-grade fever and body aches.
Signs of contact allergies
Contact allergens cause a skin rash. You may have a small or large patch of skin with:
- Raised bumps
- Dry, flaky skin
- Cracked skin
An allergic rash resembles many possible skin conditions, such as eczema and non-allergic contact dermatitis. A thorough exam and allergy testing is the only way to determine if you have an allergy.
Signs of a food allergy
Food allergy symptoms usually begin in your gut, but they’re different from most other allergies because they can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Angioedema (swelling)
- Red, itchy skin
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy mouth
Food allergies don’t follow a predictable path. You could have mild symptoms one time, followed by a severe reaction the next, or the other way around.
Your symptoms may start shortly after eating the food causing your allergy or not for hours. However, most foods cause reactions within two hours.
Food allergies are especially dangerous because they can cause a severe, anaphylactic reaction. This reaction occurs rapidly and causes:
- Swelling of your lips, tongue, and throat
- Difficulty breathing
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that can cause shock and death. You should immediately call 911 and inject epinephrine (if you have it).
Don’t wait to seek help for allergy symptoms. Call White Lake Family Medicine or use the online booking feature today and make an appointment to learn if you have allergies and get the treatment you need to feel better.