An allergic reaction is an overreaction of the immune system to a substance called an allergen. Allergens include chemicals, foods, medicines, mold, plants, and pollen.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild and annoying to severe and life-threatening.
- Allergens can affect different tissues in the body, such as the airways, eyes, gastrointestinal tract, nose, lungs, and skin.
- Some allergic reactions, such as hives or itching around an insect bite or where a plant or chemical touched the skin, affect only one area of the body.
- Other allergic reactions may affect the whole body, causing itching all over, swelling, fainting, belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.
- A severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) can lead to shock and even death.
Allergic reactions may not occur the first time a person is exposed to an allergen. A person may become more sensitive to the allergen with each exposure.
Current as of: February 27, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine