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Allergies and asthma

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Take action to get relief

Normally, your immune system helps to defend you against harmful germs. Sometimes it overreacts to other substances besides germs, causing allergies and triggering asthma.

An allergy is when your body's natural defense system overreacts to allergens, like pollen, dust mites, food, and latex, and causes a runny nose, coughing, itching, hives, or other symptoms.

Your body can react to many allergens. Most allergic reactions are mild and annoying, while others can be sudden and life-threatening.

Some allergens can also trigger asthma, a common breathing problem whose symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Other irritants can trigger asthma, too. For example, the flu is a common asthma trigger, so wash your hands often and get a flu shot every year.

Allergies and asthma can't be cured, but you and your doctor can make a daily action plan that can reduce your symptoms and help you lead a healthy, active life.

Reviewed by: Peter Cvietusa, MD, August 2013
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2013 Kaiser Permanente