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An allergy is an immune response or reaction to a substance that is usually not harmful. Normally, the immune system protects the body from harmful substances like bacteria and viruses. In a person with allergies, the body’s immune response is oversensitive to foreign substances called allergens, which are generally harmless and do not cause problems in most people.


Allergic reactions occur when the body recognizes an allergen and the immune system launches a response. Chemicals called histamines are released, which cause allergy symptoms.  Common allergens include dust, food, insect venom, mold, pet dander, drugs, and pollen.


The part of the body the allergen touches affects what symptoms will develop. Allergens you breathe in will cause allergic rhinitis, which can cause stuffy nose, itchy nose and throat, and itching of the roof of the mouth and/or ears. Allergic rhinitis may cause production of a fluid called mucus. This fluid is usually thin and clear, but may thicken and become yellow as more mucus is produced. Mucus helps keep dust, debris, and allergens out of the lungs by trapping particles like dust and pollen.

If an allergen comes in contact with your eye it may cause allergic conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the eye. Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include itchy, watery eyes and lid distress. If eye allergies become severe, Optometrists at the Atwater Eye Care Clinic on campus are available to evaluate students.


The best way to reduce symptoms is to avoid what causes your allergies. There are also many medications that can be used to prevent and treat allergies. These include:

Antihistamines are available by prescription or over-the-counter and may be in the form of a pill, eye drops, liquid, injection, or nasal spray.

Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that are also available in many forms including creams for the skin, eye drops, lung inhaler, or nasal spray.

Video on How to Use Nasal Spray:

Decongestants can help relieve a stuffy nose and may come in the form of a pill or nasal spray. Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than a few days because they can cause a “rebound” affect and make congestion worse. People with high blood pressure, heart problems, or prostate enlargements should use decongestants with caution.

Allergy shots are recommended when you cannot avoid the allergen and your symptoms are difficult to keep under control. Allergy shots involve regular doctor’s visits and injections of the allergen, and are intended to keep your body from over-reacting to the allergen.

Some medicines called Leukotriene Inhibitors block the substances that trigger allergies. These are generally used for people with asthma and indoor and outdoor allergies.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider for an appointment if severe allergy symptoms occur, or if your allergy treatment is no longer working.

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