Allergies and asthma


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Allergies occur when your body's natural defense system, called your immune system, overreacts to allergens, like pollen, dust mites, or food. Environmental allergies, such as pollen or dust mite allergies, can cause a runny nose, a stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, or coughing. Food allergies can cause itching, hives, lip swelling 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.

Environmental allergies can also trigger asthma, a common breathing problem whose symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Irritants, such as smoke, air pollution and fumes, can trigger asthma, too. The flu is also a common asthma trigger, so wash your hands often and get a flu shot every year.

Reviewed by: Patricia McNally, MD, November 2018