Anyone can have an allergic reaction, of course. But you’re more likely to have one if you have a family history of allergies, or have asthma or another allergic condition, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What causes an allergic reaction?
Oof, lots of things. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common allergy triggers include:
- Airborne substances like pollen, pet dander, mold, or dust mites
- Foods, like peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, or milk
- Venom from insect bites or stings
- Certain medications, for example, penicillin-based antibiotics
- Materials, such as latex or polyester
This list is far from all-encompassing, though. We’ve all heard of someone who had that weird reaction to a piece of jewelry, a seemingly harmless piece of fruit, or some totally random ingredient in a lotion or cream. (Or maybe you’ve had one yourself!) “Grossly speaking, you can have allergic symptoms to anything,” Ratika Gupta, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, tells SELF.
What are typical allergic reaction symptoms?
To say that allergic reactions can run the gamut would be a major understatement. When your body comes in contact with something it doesn’t like, it can respond with mild irritation or outright pain and discomfort. In some cases, severe allergic reactions can even be life-threatening.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, you might be having a mild allergic reaction if exposure to a particular substance causes:
- General itchiness
- A stuffy nose
- A skin rash
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
Signs of a moderate to severe reaction are less subtle. According to Mount Sinai, these can include:
- Stomach pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Tightness in your chest
- Feeling flushed or red-faced
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Feeling anxious
- Having trouble breathing or swallowing
- Swelling in various body parts, including eyes, face, or tongue
- Heart palpitations
- Anaphylaxis, a really sudden and severe reaction that may cause your throat to swell, making it difficult to breathe.
Severe symptoms tend to come on quickly, within minutes of exposure to the offending allergen. But sometimes reactions can take a few hours, especially when it comes to allergic reactions to certain foods, the U.S. National Library of Medicine notes.
What’s more, some allergens tend to be more likely to cause certain symptoms. For example, food allergies often cause mouth tingling, facial swelling, hives, or possibly anaphylaxis, while pollen or dander are more likely to trigger sneezing, a runny nose, or watery eyes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How do you know if you have anaphylaxis symptoms?
Mild allergic reactions aren’t typically medical emergencies, but severe ones absolutely are. As we mentioned, anaphylaxis is a sudden, life-threatening reaction that can happen with food, insect stings, latex, or medication allergies.