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What are allergies?

An allergy is a reaction by your immune system to something that does not bother most other people. People who have allergies often are sensitive to more than one thing. Substances that often cause reactions are:

Normally, your immune system fights germs. It is your body's defense system. In most allergic reactions, however, it is responding to a false alarm. Genes and the environment probably both play a role.

Seasonal Allergies
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What are seasonal allergies?

If you have an allergy, your immune system reacts to something that doesn’t bother most other people. People with seasonal allergies (also called hay fever or allergic rhinitis) react to pollen from plants. Symptoms may include sneezing, coughing, a runny or stuffy nose, and itching in the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat.

This page discusses complementary health approaches for allergic rhinitis. Another page on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) website has information on complementary approaches for asthma.

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What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) lung disease. It affects your airways, the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. When you have asthma, your airways can become inflamed and narrowed. This can cause wheezing, coughing, and tightness in your chest. When these symptoms get worse than usual, it is called an asthma attack or flare-up.

What causes asthma?

The exact cause of asthma is unknown. Genetics and your environment likely play a role in who gets asthma.

Allergens Overview

Allergies arise if the body's immune system overreacts to certain foreign substances (allergens) that are normally harmless in most people.

Common allergens include pollens, fungal spores, house-dust mites, and animal epithelial materials but can also include drugs, biologic products, and insect venoms.

How a person reacts to an allergen depends on how they come in contact with it. In many people, allergic reactions occur on the skin and in the airways and mucous membranes. Symptoms usually start quickly after contact with the allergen. In some cases, it takes a few hours or days for the reaction to happen. Symptoms can be mild or a real nuisance with a considerable effect on everyday life.