What are the Different Types of Allergic Response?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

An allergic response can be described as types of symptoms the body expresses when it is exposed to an allergen. These may be relatively minor, such as the itchy eyes or nose some people might encounter after coming into contact with pollen, or allergic response can be significantly more severe and sometimes life threatening. There is considerable diversity in types of allergies and people who share the same allergies don’t always share the same reaction.

Many people have minor symptoms like a runny nose and itchy eyes.
Many people have minor symptoms like a runny nose and itchy eyes.

One of the most common types of allergic response is irritation of the nasal passages, resulting in runny or stuffy nose. Along with this, the eyes may be red or irritated. This response is typically associated with things like pollen allergy and called hayfever, but contact with molds or dust mites can cause it too.

Allergic skin reactions can result in an itching sensation.
Allergic skin reactions can result in an itching sensation.

Some people who experience allergic rhinitis have more extensive symptoms. The respiratory tract could become involved resulting in cough or mild to severe asthma. The airway can constrict making it difficult to breath when in the presence of allergens. People might not always have an asthmatic response when they come into contact with irritating sources, but the risk is very clear. Given potential for asthma to occur, folks usually need to have at least a fast-acting inhaler on hand to get treatment quickly, and it should be noted that allergic asthma and allergic rhinitis do not necessarily occur together.

Hives typically stem from an allergic reaction.
Hives typically stem from an allergic reaction.

Allergic response doesn’t have to affect the nose, eyes, or respiratory tract. Some people show signs of allergy with a skin reaction and may develop hives if they come into contact with an irritant from the outside, or if they ingest something creating a systemic response. Identifying the source of urticaria (hives) can be difficult because it can be caused by thousands of different things. Common treatment for this, as with treatment for rhinitis, is antihistamines, which stop histamine reaction and calm the skin down.

A topical cream can be applied to alleviate itchy skin.
A topical cream can be applied to alleviate itchy skin.

One type of reaction most people may not regard as an allergic response is severe stomach upset or cramping. Sometimes people show allergies when they ingest certain foods. This could manifest as stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. This is a rarer reaction than basic hay fever or even allergic asthma or hives.

Hay fever symptoms are allergic responses.
Hay fever symptoms are allergic responses.

Undoubtedly the most severe type of allergic response is anaphylaxis. This is a whole body reaction to exposure to an allergen and can occur when people are allergic to certain foods like peanuts or shellfish or to some medicines, such as penicillin. It may also result from insect bites or stings, or from poisonous snakebites.

A skin rash can appear as a type of allergic response.
A skin rash can appear as a type of allergic response.

Anaphylaxis does not usually occur on first exposure to the allergen, except potentially in reptile bites. In most cases it occurs with subsequent exposure and with greater severity with each contact. Several things happen at once that are dangerous.

Skin rash or hives can occur, lips and tongue may feel swollen, and airway begins to close. The danger is immediate and most people who know they have these life-threatening allergies carry an Epi-pen, an easy to inject dose of epinephrine, to stop the reaction. Should this not be available other symptoms such as vomiting, low blood pressure, and fainting or loss of consciousness can present. It should be noted that anaphylaxis should always be considered a life-threatening emergency.

Those with anaphylactic responses in the past are also advised to wear a medical bracelet or necklace to alert others. Since this condition can be very easily fatal without proper management, it is important that people treat it with the respect it deserves. On the other hand, first anaphylactic reactions tend to be unexpected because the first time the body was exposed to a particular allergen it did not react in such a severe way. For safety, all people should learn to recognize the signs of this most serious allergic response, so they can get emergency help if they recognize this response in themselves or in someone else.

Asthma makes the airway constrict.
Asthma makes the airway constrict.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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