Asthma or Lung Allergy

Many people think of asthma as an “attack”: one minute you feel okay and the next you have to gasp for air. But asthma causes many symptoms beyond attacks. Perhaps you wheeze, making a squeaky or whistling sound when you breathe. You might have frequent chest colds or bronchitis a few times a year. Or maybe your only asthma symptom is a cough that wakes you up at night or happens when you exercise or laugh. The important thing to remember is that all asthma is serious and even can be deadly. If you have asthma, you have it all the time—not just when you have symptoms or an attack. It's a chronic disease, meaning it's constant and does not go away. So even though you may feel just fine, you still have asthma. And if you don't treat asthma properly, it can damage your lungs. The good news is asthma can be controlled to stop symptoms or attacks. Allergists are doctors who have the specialized training and experience to find out what causes your asthma, prevent and treat symptoms, and help keep it under control. Allergists believe everyone who has asthma should feel good, be active all day, and sleep well at night. You don't need to accept anything less. If your asthma is in control, you can expect:

  • Few or no asthma symptoms, even at night or after exercise
  • Prevention of all or most asthma attacks
  • No problems being active, including exercising
  • No emergency room visits or hospital stays
  • Less need for quick-relief medicines
  • Few or no side effects from asthma medicines

Back to Top

Nasal or Sinus Allergy

The most common allergens float in the air, such as plant pollens from trees, grasses and weeds, dander from pets, mold spores and dust mites. This type of allergy is called “rhinitis” because it affects the nose. As many as 10 percent to 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children suffer from the condition. The symptoms are sneezing, stuffy or runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Rhinitis can take three forms:

  • Seasonal. Seasonal allergic rhinitis—especially when caused by plant pollens or molds—is often called “hay fever.” But seasonal rhinitis is not caused by hay, and when you have it, you don't have a fever. It occurs mostly in the spring, summer or early fall when plants are pollinating.
  • Year-round. Over two-thirds of people with rhinitis suffer “perennial allergic rhinitis” year-round. This is often caused by an allergy to dust mites, pet dander, mold or other indoor allergens. Foods also sometimes cause perennial rhinitis.
  • Non-allergic rhinitis. People with non-allergic rhinitis tend to have symptoms that come and go throughout the year. Usually symptoms are a stuffy and runny nose and postnasal drip. This type of rhinitis can be caused by:
    • Exposure to smoke, smog and air pollution
    • Overuse of nasal drops or sprays
    • Some medicines
    • Hormonal changes in women during menstruation and pregnancy

Back to Top


Eye Allergy

Allergic reactions in the eyes, often called eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis, affect millions of Americans. Symptoms include itchy, red or watery eyes and may be confused with an infection (“pink eye”). One main difference is that allergic eye conditions will be chronic and not responsive to antibiotic eye drops. Eye allergies may be caused by the same allergens that cause allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and produce symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling and a stuffy nose. Pet hair or dander, dust mites and molds are common indoor allergies that also trigger eye allergies.


Back to Top

Skin Allergy

Allergic skin reactions are very common and it can be difficult to figure out what causes them. There are hundreds of different kinds of rashes that can be caused by many things, such as plants like poison ivy, allergic reactions to a medication or a food, or a response to an illness. Allergic eczema (atopic dermatitis) and hives (urticaria) are two of the most common skin rashes. Eczema affects 10 percent to 20 percent of children and 1 percent to 3 percent of adults. If you have eczema, your skin may become red, irritated and itchy. Sometimes there are small, fluid-filled bumps that ooze. Hives are red bumps or welts that appear on the body. About 20 percent of Americans have hives at some time in their lives. Contact dermatitis is caused when the skin touches either an allergen or something that irritates it, causing symptoms such as a rash, blisters, itching and burning. Most cases of contact dermatitis are not caused by an allergen but by something that irritates the skin such as soap, detergents and some plants. Some people have allergic reactions to latex, especially after they have been repeatedly exposed. Latex rubber gloves are a common cause, but latex in any product, such as elastic waist bands and balloons, may be the culprit. Latex allergy can cause:

  • Skin rash
  • Hives
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Itching allergic reactions to latex can range from skin redness and itching to much more serious symptoms. A more severe reaction can occur if a person who is allergic to latex is exposed to it during an operation or gynecologic exam.

Back to Top

Food Allergy

An allergic reaction to food, often called food allergies, can cause mild to serious symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives or skin rash
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Stuffy nose, sneezing and runny nose

Some mild symptoms may be caused by food sensitivity rather than an allergic reaction. An allergist can help determine if it is a true allergic reaction. Shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergens for adults. Milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergens for children. The best defense against food allergies is to avoid foods that cause a reaction.


Back to Top
Drug Allergy

While side effects to medicines are common, most of these are not caused by an overreaction of the immune system or a “drug allergy.” However, sometimes a medicine can trigger an immune system response, and you may become overly sensitive to the medication. The most common symptoms of allergic reactions to a drug are:

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Wheezing or other breathing problems
  • Swelling of body parts
  • Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Back to Top

Bee Sting or Venom Allergy

When an insect stings or bites, it injects venom or saliva into your skin that can lead to bumps that itch, sting, swell, redden or feel hot. Scratching often makes things worse and may cause an infection. Most of the time, reactions to bites or stings are limited to the local area and can become quite large. In rare cases, insect stings can lead to a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis and have symptoms of:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of color (pale looking)
  • Wheezing or other breathing problems
  • Difficulty swallowing or talking
  • Stomach cramping or diarrhea Immunodeficiency: Our immune system is our defense against invading organisms that can cause infection (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites). Beyond our natural barrier protection from our skin and body fluids (tears, stomach acid, and mucous), our immune system is comprised of three major components: cellular (white blood cells), humoral (antibodies), and protein factors (complement factors). Though some immunodeficiencies can start at birth due to genetic mutations, some do not arise until later in life. The most common symptoms of immunodeficiency include:
    • Recurrent respiratory infections (sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia)
    • Recurrent skin infections (abscesses)
    • Recurrent ear infections
    • Recurrent unexplained fevers
    • Infections by organisms that usually do not cause diseases (opportunistic infections).

Back to Top


Venom Immunotherapy fact

Text taken from as a registered active member of the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology.