Allergies

Allergies Articles

Should I worry about a sudden swollen tongue?

A sudden swollen tongue can result from a side effect of medication like ACE inhibitors, an infection, vitamin B12 deficiency, and, in rare cases, an underactive thyroid gland. People should see a doctor if the condition doesn’t improve. (Locked) More »

COVID-19 or something else?

Many COVID-19 symptoms—such as fever, cough, or muscle aches—overlap with the symptoms of other respiratory conditions, such as influenza, a common cold, or asthma. But there are differences among the conditions. For example, a bout of the flu or a cold will not cause shortness of breath the way COVID-19 will. And while asthma can cause shortness of breath, it won’t cause a fever or body aches the way COVID-19 will. A person who’s experiencing concerning symptoms of respiratory illness should report them to a doctor. More »

Hives (Urticaria)

Hives, also called urticaria, are circumscribed swellings on the skin that often are itchy. Often they are pink or red, but they don't have to be. Hives happen when the cells in the skin called mast cells release histamine, a chemical that causes tiny blood vessels (capillaries) to leak fluid. When this leaking fluid accumulates in the skin, it forms the swellings that we recognize as hives. Hives can be triggered by physical factors such as heat, cold, exercise, sunlight, stress, sustained pressure on a skin area (such as from a belt or shoulder strap), a sudden increase in body temperature (from a fever or a hot bath or shower) or from an irritating chemical, cosmetic or soap applied to the skin. Hives also can be one symptom of a whole-body (systemic) allergic reaction to something that was: Hives probably affect about 20% of people in the United States at some time in life, with the greatest number of episodes occurring in people aged 20 to 30. In rare cases, allergic reactions that trigger hives set off a chain reaction throughout the body, resulting in a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. Sometimes, hives last for six weeks or more, a condition called chronic (or idiopathic) urticaria. Often, no cause is found for this chronic condition, and it usually goes away on its own after several weeks. (Locked) More »

The risk of inactive ingredients in everyday drugs

Inactive ingredients serve many purposes in medications. For example, artificial sweeteners mask a bitter taste, fatty acids help promote the absorption of some drugs, and lactose and other sugars bind ingredients together. But inactive ingredients may also cause adverse reactions, such as an allergic response or gastrointestinal symptoms. It’s best to carefully read a medication’s ingredient list before taking the pill, and consult a doctor if there are any ingredients that are a concern. (Locked) More »

Nothing to sneeze at

Older adults can develop seasonal allergies—also known as hay fever, even if they never had them before. The best ways to help avoid allergy symptoms and manage their severity is to track the daily pollen count, use certain over-the-counter medication as needed, and potentially take allergy vaccines to build up resistance to specific allergens. More »

Choosing an over-the-counter allergy medication

The options can be confusing. Try this approach when symptoms start to develop. If you're struggling with allergy symptoms, you may assume you can resolve them with an over-the-counter (OTC) remedy. And that may be true. Many pharmaceutical-grade allergy drugs once available only by prescription are now as easy to buy as aspirin. But that development forces you to become a doctor in the drugstore aisle as you try to figure out which product is right for you. "People often make the wrong decision about which medication to take and they wind up being undertreated. They try a mix of medications, but don't get relief," says Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Before choosing a medication, it helps to understand what's causing your allergies. Often it's a matter of inhaling a harmless substance, such as pollen or another allergen, which the immune system mistakenly perceives as a dangerous invader. (Locked) More »