What's allergy?

An immune response by your body to get rid of a substance (usually a protein) that is irritating you. It may be dust or pollen in the air, foods you eat or even a lick from your pet dog.

Although allergies are common, life-threatening allergies and particularly deaths from allergy are very rare.

Symptoms tend to be most apparent on the skin, your nose or lungs. If it is a food, you may feel sick, vomit, develop tummy pain and diarrhoea. Click on the picture to the right for more details.

You can help stop the reaction by washing your hands and face with water if it is something you touched, or stop eating the food until you have received further advice if you think it is related to something you ate. If you have hives or hay fever symptoms a dose of antihistamine can help calm things down.

The following are not typical symptoms of allergy and your doctor will help you look for another reason for the problem:

  • headaches, fits and funny turns
  • palpitations, chest pain
  • cough with green phlegm
  • fevers
  • bruising

Click on image to enlarge

IMMEDIATE REACTIONS Reactions come on quickly, typically within an hour. They are usually treated with antihistamines, which you can also get over the counter from your chemist. We suggest long-acting antihistamines such as cetirizine or loratidine to Piriton, which doesn't last as long. If you have breathing problems or faint, then ADRENALINE is the treatment of choice. Call for an ambulance, and if you have an adrenaline pen, give it now. Even if the reaction settles with the adrenaline, you still need to go immediately to hospital to get checked out and make sure the allergic (anaphylactic) reaction is settling.
DELAYED REACTIONS These reactions only start a few hours later and may go on for a few days or weeks (particularly eczema and asthma). They are treated with steroids (ointments for eczema, brown or purple inhalers for asthma, nasal sprays for hay fever). Antihistamines don't work for these chronic allergies.