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Symptoms of Severe Allergies and What You Can Do About Them

Allergy symptoms develop when your immune system overreacts to harmless substances. Allergic reactions range from barely perceptible to life-threatening. Each person may react to an allergen differently. Potential allergens are everywhere:

  • Food
  • Inhaled into the lungs
  • Injections and medications
  • Objects you may touch

 Regardless of the source, having an allergic reaction is uncomfortable. Depending on your allergy, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Runny, itchy eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy skin
  • Rashes

Each year, over 50 million people experience an allergy of some type. If you have mild or moderate allergy symptoms or suspect that you may have allergies, getting an online diagnosis is easy. You may need emergency care if you have a severe allergic reaction.

Severe Allergic Reactions

Anaphylaxis refers to a serious allergic reaction. Unfortunately, anaphylactic reactions can occur quickly and be life-threatening.

Anaphylaxis or severe allergy symptoms include:

  • Skin: generalized hives, itching, or flushing
  • Mucosal membranes: swollen lips and tongues, eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing
  • Respiratory: itching in the ears or throat, the sensation of throat closing, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • Gastrointestinal: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, crampy abdominal pain
  • Cardiovascular: dizziness, fast heartbeat, fainting

Common Severe vs. Mild Allergens

Whether an allergen causes severe or mild allergies depends on the person’s genetic predisposition and immune reactions. When exposed to an allergen, your immune system produces allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE). With each subsequent exposure, your immune system is primed to pump out IgE, which triggers a series of chemical reactions in the body.

Activated cells and chemicals in the body cause your allergy symptoms. Your body is trying to wash away and remove the allergens with this response. This reaction could be life-protective, except the allergen is harmless.

Your genetic code determines how vigorously your body produces IgE antibodies. Excessive production can cause more severe allergy symptoms or even anaphylaxis. Any common allergen could cause an allergic reaction in a range of severity.

Common allergens:

  • Foods: cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts
  • Insect stings and bites
  • Pollen: trees, plants, grass
  • Pet dander
  • Dust mites
  • Latex
  • Medications
  • Mold spores
  • Perfumes
  • Household chemicals

Mild Allergic Reactions

Mild allergic reactions are hard to differentiate from common cold viruses. Viruses cause common colds, and allergens cause allergic reactions. Here are some other differences between colds and allergies.  

SymptomsCough, sore throat, post-nasal drip, nasal congestion, sneezing, fatigue, fever, body achesCough, sore throat, post-nasal drip, congestion, sneezing, fatigue, itchiness
PatternMore common in the winter and fallDepends on the allergen
Duration of symptomsUsually, 7 to 10 daysCan extend for weeks

Severe Allergy Treatments

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. These reactions can cause airway swelling, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If this should occur, depending on the severity of symptoms, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency care center.

For mild-to-moderate allergic reactions, telehealth can provide the treatment you need with the safety and convenience of online healthcare. Using pictures of any rash and your description of your allergy symptoms, your online doctor can make an online diagnosis.

Anaphylactic reactions are severe allergic reactions that can be life-threatening and require emergency treatment. If you have wheezing, difficulty breathing, facial swelling, or feel faint, seek emergency help.

Avoiding Allergens

If you have allergies, your immune system will inappropriately respond whenever you are exposed to the allergen. Avoiding your allergen is the best way to manage allergies, but it is typically easier said than done.  

See your allergist to confirm your allergen, whether it is food or environmental. After learning what allergens you react to, make changes to reduce your exposure.  

  • Stay indoors with your windows closed during high-allergen times. Many weather apps report common allergens and their levels in your area.
  • Dustproof your home by removing unnecessary carpet, drapes, bedding, and upholstered furniture.
  • Encase mattresses and pillows in a zipped, plastic, dust-mite-proof encasing.
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
  • Add HEPA filters to vacuums and furnaces to reduce allergens.
  • Control pet allergens with frequent bathing, brushing, and grooming.
  • Avoid exposure to foods, chemicals, perfumes, tobacco, and air pollution.
  • Leave your shoes and coats in a mud room to avoid tracking allergens throughout your home.

Allergy Medication

Allergy medications help control symptoms.

  • Antihistamines reduce itching, watery eyes, sore throat, and post-nasal drip
  • Decongestants reduce nasal congestion and headaches
  • Steroid nasal sprays reduce nasal congestion
  • Nasal saline rinses remove allergens from the nose and sinuses.

Sometimes, over-the-counter allergy medications are not enough to control your symptoms. In these cases, seeing an online doctor and getting a prescription online may be your best choice.


If your allergy symptoms persist or worsen, even after you make environmental changes and try controlling your symptoms with medication, you may need immunotherapy or allergy shots.  

Immunotherapy teaches your immune system to become less sensitive to your allergen. Your allergist will inject escalating doses of your allergen. As your body becomes less sensitive to your allergen, you will notice decreased symptoms when exposed.

Severe allergies affect your quality of life, and they can be life-threatening. Recognizing allergy symptoms, avoiding allergy triggers, and treating symptoms with over-the-counter medications is the first step toward controlling severe allergy symptoms.

If your symptoms persist or over-the-counter medication is not enough, make an appointment with an online doctor to be diagnosed and treated.


While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

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