Allergies are incredibly common. Up to 25% of the industrial world population is estimated to suffer from allergies. In most cases, allergies are relatively mild. They are annoying and can interfere with your day-to-day life. However, they do not pose a serious health consequence, and can often be managed with over-the-counter or prescription treatments. There are some people who have allergies that are much more severe and can even be life-threatening.
Symptoms of Severe vs Mild Allergies
Common symptoms of mild allergies (like hay fever) include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Occasional rash or hives
Symptoms of severe allergies are much more intense and include:
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of throat or lungs
- Severe rash
- In rare cases, death.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that causes airway obstruction. This makes it difficult to breathe and can lead to your body going into shock. It has a quick onset and can be fatal if not treated immediately. It’s estimated that up to 5% of the population of the United States has had anaphylaxis at some point. Thankfully, death from anaphylaxis is rare and has a mortality rate of less than 1% for people with known severe allergies.
Anaphylaxis is treated with an epinephrine injector, like an EpiPen. Anyone who has experienced anaphylaxis previously should carry around an EpiPen or similar device in case they are accidentally exposed to their allergy trigger(s). We also recommend that you seek medical treatment after giving yourself an injection. It’s important a doctor checks you out fully and gives you any additional care needed after experiencing anaphylaxis.
What Causes Severe Allergic Reactions?
The same reaction that causes mild allergies causes severe allergic reactions as well. Essentially, when you are allergic to something and come into contact with it your immune system overreacts and produces antibodies that attack the allergen and cause allergic symptoms. In most cases, these symptoms will be mild.
Severe allergy symptoms seem to be more associated with certain types of allergens. These include:
- Insect stings
- Food allergies
What to do if You Have Severe Allergies
If you’ve been diagnosed with severe allergies, there are several things you can do to protect yourself besides carry an EpiPen.
- Get tested by an allergist to confirm which allergens are causing a reaction and get proper treatment.
- Avoid triggers. This means if you have a food allergy, be very careful of what you consume when you go out to eat at 1801 Grille or other local restaurants.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet.
If you have any additional questions about severe allergies or wish to make an appointment, contact us at Charleston ENT & Allergy, and we’ll be happy to help.