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Understanding Allergies

Allergic reactions usually happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen.

They can cause:

  • Sneezing
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Red, itchy, watery eyes
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • A red, itchy rash
  • Worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms

Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur.

This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.

Is It An Allergy, Sensitivity or Intolerance?

Allergy

A reaction produced by the body’s immune system when exposed to a normally harmless substance.

Sensitivity

The exaggeration of the normal effects of a substance. For example, the caffeine in a cup of coffee may cause extreme symptoms, such as palpitations and trembling.

Intolerance

Where a substance causes unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhoea, but does not involve the immune system.

Getting help for allergies

Contact your GP if you think you or your child might have had an allergic reaction to something.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can also be caused by other conditions.

A GP can help determine whether it’s likely you have an allergy.

If they think you might have a mild allergy, they can offer advice and treatment to help manage the condition.

If your allergy is particularly severe or it’s not clear what you’re allergic to, they may refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and advice about treatment.

© East Cornwall Primary Care Network 2020

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