Information for Patients
An allergy is a reaction by your immune system to something that does not bother most other people. People who have allergies often are sensitive to more than one thing. Substances that often cause reactions are
- Dust mites
- Mold spores
- Pet dander
- Insect stings
Normally, your immune system fights germs. It is your body's defense system. In most allergic reactions, however, it is responding to a false alarm. Genes and the environment probably both play a role.
Allergies can cause a variety of symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, itching, rashes, swelling, or asthma. Allergies can range from minor to severe. Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction that can be life-threatening. Doctors use skin and blood tests to diagnose allergies. Treatments include medicines, allergy shots, and avoiding the substances that cause the reactions.
Insect Bites and Stings
Most insect bites are harmless, though they sometimes cause discomfort. Bee, wasp, and hornet stings and fire ant bites usually hurt. Mosquito and flea bites usually itch. Insects can also spread diseases. In the United States, some mosquitoes spread West Nile virus. Travelers outside the United States may be at risk for malaria and other infections.
To prevent insect bites and their complications
- Don't bother insects
- Use insect repellant
- Wear protective clothing
- Be careful when you eat outside because food attracts insects
- If you know you have severe allergic reactions to insect bites and stings (such as anaphylaxis), carry an emergency epinephrine kit