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In This Story: Allergy
Allergies are a number of conditions caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to typically harmless substances in the environment. These include hay fever, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic asthma, and anaphylaxis. Symptoms may include red eyes, an itchy rash, sneezing, a runny nose, shortness of breath, or swelling.
Common allergens include pollen and certain foods. Metals and other substances may also cause problems. Food, insect stings, and medications are common causes of severe reactions. Their development is due to both genetic and environmental factors.
Treatments for allergies include the avoidance of known allergens and the use of medications such as steroids and antihistamines. In severe reactions injectable adrenaline (epinephrine) is recommended.
Allergies are common. In the developed world, about 20% of people are affected by allergic rhinitis, about 6% of people have at least one food allergy, and about 20% have atopic dermatitis at some point in time. Depending on the country about 1–18% of people have asthma. Anaphylaxis occurs in between 0.05–2% of people.