An allergy is an abnormal sensitivity or reaction of your immune system to a substance (an allergen) that you eat, inhale or touch. Certain people are sensitive to this allergen and have a reaction when exposed to it. Nearly 50% of all people who suffer from allergies have hay fever. Some allergic reactions are mild and harmless, but others are severe and potentially life-threatening (anaphylaxis).

Allergic diseases include asthma, eczema, rhinitis, hives, insect allergies, food allergies, drug allergies and anaphylaxis. Many of these diseases can have both allergic and non-allergic “versions”. For example, a reaction to insect bites may be an allergy or a toxic reaction.


Symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of your allergies. Symptoms can include:

  • Sneezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Itching (mostly eyes, nose, mouth, throat and skin).
  • Runny nose.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Headache.
  • Pressure in the nose and cheeks.
  • Ear fullness and popping.
  • Sore throat.
  • Watery, red, or swollen eyes.
  • Dark circles under your eyes.
  • Trouble smelling.
  • Hives.

Things that people are commonly allergic to include:

  • Tree and grass pollens.
  • House dust mite.
  • Animals, especially domestic pets such as cats and dogs.
  • Insect venom such as that contained in wasp and bee stings.
  • Medicines – for example, the antibiotic penicillin.
  • Foods, such as nuts and eggs.
  • Chemicals such as latex.
Severe allergic reaction – anaphylaxis

A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is life threatening.

Symptoms include:

  • difficult or noisy breathing.
  • swelling of the tongue.
  • swelling or tightness of the throat.
  • difficulty talking or a hoarse voice.
  • wheeze or persistent cough.
  • persistent dizziness or collapse.
  • paleness and floppiness in young children.
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