Common allergies

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Are you getting a reaction?

Food, drugs, bugs, and latex are just a few of the allergens your body can react to. Learn how to reduce your risk of allergic reactions to common allergens.

If you have severe food, drug, or bug allergies, you may want to keep an Epi-Pen with you at all times. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you how to use it, and train other people in your home on what to do.

Food allergies

Your immune system can have an abnormal reaction to food. The best treatment for a food allergy is to avoid the foods that cause it. Ask your doctor about medications you can take and what you should do if you accidentally eat a food that you're allergic to. And ask your doctor if you should have an Epi-Pen to carry with you for use in case of a severe allergic reaction.

Drug allergies

A drug allergy is when your immune system overreacts to a medicine, such as aspirin or penicillin. Drug allergies may cause:

  • skin problems, such as hives, or a rash
  • blistering and peeling skin (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome)
  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of the lips, mouth, and throat
  • anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that affects your whole body
  • belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • a fever

If you think that you’re having an allergic reaction to a medication, stop taking it immediately and call your doctor or pharmacist. 

Bug bites and stings

Some people have an allergic reaction, usually swelling or a rash, to the venom in bug bites or stings. If you're allergic to them, try to stay away from bugs, especially bees and wasps:

  • don't wear scents or perfumes
  • avoid bright or floral clothing
  • don't stand near open garbage cans
  • eat indoors

Ask your doctor about medications you can take if you’re bitten or stung by an insect.

Latex allergies

Some people are allergic to latex, the rubber found in some medical and household products.  This allergy usually develops in people who have a lot of exposure to latex.

The itch factor

Do you often suffer from red, bumpy, scaly, itchy, inflamed, blistered, or swollen skin? Touching plants like poison ivy, medications, cosmetics, perfumes, and many other common substances can cause an allergic reaction, such as the form of eczema that is called "contact allergy" or allergic contact dermatitis. If you’re very uncomfortable, ask your doctor if you should use an over the counter medication such as Hydrocortisone cream.

Reviewed by: William Crawford, MD, December 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente