There are several conditions that may be a signal of an allergic reaction. Whether it be to food, animals, environmental factors, or even in response to exercise or temperature changes, allergies and their reactions come in a variety of forms, including:
Allergic rashes, also known as allergic contact dermatitis, can occur after an allergen or irritant touches the skin. This type of rash is different than hives or eczema, and typically appears one to four days after contact with an allergen or irritant.
Symptoms of allergic rashes include:
- Red bumps
- Itching or burning of the skin
- Swelling or oozing
Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis include:
- Metals such as nickel
- Preservatives in personal care products
- Topical antibiotics
Mild cases can be treated with topical steroid creams and oral antihistamines. Identifying an irritant with patch testing is also helpful.
A drug allergy is an unexpected immune-mediated reaction to a medication. This is different from side effects or intolerances like nausea, upset stomach or diarrhea.
Symptoms of drug allergies can be mild to severe and include:
- Rash or hives
- Wheezing or breathing problems
- Peeling of skin
- Blisters of skin or in mouth
A drug allergy can be difficult to diagnose and require a detailed history. In select cases, such as a penicillin drug allergy, skin testing is appropriate and can help determine if the allergy still exists. If you have a drug allergy, Our allergists will evaluate your condition to see if you are a candidate for desensitization.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that begins in the first few years of life. Children who have eczema can be more prone to develop other allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever.
Symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry patches of skin that are red and itchy
- Cracked or scaly skin
- Blistering, weeping or peeling of the skin
In infants, eczema usually appears on the face, neck, scalp, hands and feet. In older children and adults, eczema usually appears in elbow creases and behind the knees.
Our allergists can develop a skin care plan and prescribe topical medications to treat eczema. In special cases, identifying allergic triggers through skin or blood testing can be helpful.
Food allergies are caused by a reaction the body has when it perceives a food as foreign. This type of allergy most commonly occurs in infants and young children, but can also occur in adults. Symptoms usually occur within five to 30 minutes of eating the food, but can take hours to develop. When a severe reaction occurs, immediate treatment is required.
Symptoms of food allergy include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Anaphylaxis or shock
- Chest tightness or trouble breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Itchy nose
- Swelling of face, throat, mouth or tongue
- Watery eyes
In infants and young children, the most common food allergies are:
- Tree nuts
Our Henry Ford allergists can help determine the cause of your allergic food reaction through various tests. In most cases, avoiding the culprit food is the recommended treatment. Your allergist will work with you to determine if other treatments are necessary.
Hives are temporary red, raised and itchy bumps and can be a sign of an allergic reaction. Most cases of hives go away on their own or can be treated with antihistamines. Skin testing can also be helpful after the hives have resolved to determine what allergen caused the reaction.
Hives that continue for more than six weeks without a specific trigger are called chronic hives. In some cases of chronic hives there is an underlying cause, although these types of hives usually are not related to a specific allergen.
Angioedema is swelling of the soft tissues of the skin and can occur with hives. Like hives, angioedema can occur in response to contact with an allergen. Either antihistamines or steroids can be used to treat the reaction if it involves the hands or feet. In some cases, angioedema will affect the face, throat and tongue, and requires immediate treatment.
Hereditary angioedema -- not associated with hives -- is a rare genetic condition that involves swelling of the hands, face, feet, stomach and airways. Special blood tests are required to make this diagnosis. Hereditary angioedema does not respond to antihistamines, but our allergists can prescribe special injections or intravenous medications to prevent and treat attacks.
Immunodeficiency is associated with recurrent infections, and occurs when the body’s response to viruses or bacteria is reduced or absent. Most cases of immunodeficiency are genetic, and while some become present very early in life, others are diagnosed in adulthood.
Signs of immunodeficiency include:
- Recurrent infections such as ear infections, pneumonia or sinus infections
- Repeated courses of antibiotics to clear an infection
- Recurrent deep infections of the skin
- Family history of immunodeficiency
Our allergists can evaluate your immune system with special blood tests. Depending on the cause, antibiotics or replacement immune globulin can be used to treat recurrent infections.
Insect venom allergies can be life-threatening and may require immediate attention.
Symptoms of insect venom allergies include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Itching or swelling in areas other than the sting site
- Sharp drop in blood pressure or dizziness
- Swelling of the tongue or difficulty swallowing
- Unconsciousness and cardiac arrest
The most common insects that cause allergic reactions are:
- Fire ants (Southern regions)
- Honey bee
- Paper wasp
- White-face hornet
- Yellow hornet
- Yellow jacket
The allergists at Henry Ford can treat insect venom allergies through desensitization. This treatment will help reduce your risk of future life-threatening reactions. Patients who suffer from anaphylaxis after being stung should carry injectable epinephrine. If you only develop local symptoms that are not life-threatening, such as swelling, pain or redness only at the sting site, you are not a candidate for venom desensitization.
Pet allergies are caused by a reaction to airborne proteins from animal dander. All animals shed skin cells, so there is no such thing as an allergy-free animal. In certain animals, allergenic proteins are found in higher concentrations in urine.
The most common animals that cause allergic reactions include:
- Guinea pigs
Common symptoms that can occur after exposure to a pet include:
- Itchy eyes
- Rash after touching the animal
- Sneezing or runny nose
- Trouble breathing or wheezing
The best way to treat a pet allergy is to remove the animal from the home, but it can take up to four months for allergen levels in the environment to normalize. In some cases, avoiding the animal is impossible, so Henry Ford allergists can help with treatment plans and prescribe allergy shots if appropriate.
Seasonal allergies can make us miserable. When you are allergic to something, it means your immune system reacts to a normally harmless substance as something foreign and tries to destroy it. In the spring and summer, grass, tree pollens and insect stings are the most frequent allergens. In the fall, weed pollens -- especially ragweed -- are more common.
Symptoms can include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Post-nasal drip
- Runny nose
- Skin itching, swelling or hives
Fortunately, seasonal allergies are treatable. If you suspect that you or your family member is allergic to a seasonal allergen, talk with an allergist about doing a skin test.
Once potential allergens have been identified through the skin test, your allergist will work with you to develop a treatment plan. Depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, your treatment may include:
- Tips for how to avoid allergens
- Nasal irrigation (neti pot or other similar sinus rinse)
- Oral antihistamines
- Nasal steroids
- Eye drops
- Allergy shots
- Immunotherapy tablets for ragweed pollen