Allergies are problems of the immune system. Most allergic reactions happen when the
immune system reacts to a “false alarm.” Normally, the human body defends itself against
harmful things such as viruses or bacteria. But sometimes the defenses violently attack
mostly mild things, such as dust, mold, or pollen.
Normally, allergens are harmless. But when a person has allergies, the body thinks
these allergens are harmful. The body then attacks allergens with antibodies called
immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies are attached to special cells called mast
cells. Allergens stick to the antibodies. This makes the mast cells release histamine
and other chemicals causing an allergic reaction. When the chemicals irritate nearby
nasal tissue, this causes nasal allergy symptoms. When this happens in the lungs'
breathing tubes, it can cause asthma symptoms such as cough and wheeze. When the
reaction involves the whole body, this can be a severe allergic reaction.
allergic reaction can happen anywhere in the body. This includes the skin, eyes, lining
of the stomach, nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs. These are the places where immune
system cells are found to fight off germs that are breathed in, swallowed, or come in
contact with the skin. Allergic reactions can cause:
things can trigger allergic reactions. But the most common triggers or allergens
Allergies can affect anyone. It doesn't matter regardless of age, gender, race, or
socioeconomic status. Generally, allergies are more common in children. But allergies
can happen at any age. And they can come back after being in remission for many
Allergies tend to happen in families. But the exact reason isn’t yet understood.
Allergy symptoms often happen slowly over time.
diagnose an allergy, the healthcare provider will take a complete health history and
examine your child. The provider may also do these tests:
Any positive test needs to be explained by a healthcare provider who
is familiar with the test and your child's health history.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general
health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
symptoms of allergies sometimes look like other conditions or health problems. Always
see your child's healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
most effective ways to treat allergies are avoidance, allergy shots (immunotherapy), and
medicine. Avoidance means staying away from something that gives you an allergic
Suggestions for staying away from allergens are:
vacations in areas where pollen is not as common, such as near the ocean.
child’s healthcare provider will also have suggestions for staying away from the
allergens that cause reactions.
Treatments for hay fever (rhinitis) may include:
Decongestants are not recommended for children younger than age 4. Talk with your
child’s healthcare provider for more information about allergy medicine.
to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200