The immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually reacts to and attacks bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. An allergy is when your body's immune system reacts to something harmless, such as food, plants, or medicine.
Doctors aren't sure why some people who are exposed to a substance become allergic to it and others don't.
Common substances that trigger allergic reactions include:
Mild allergic reactions may cause:
Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis Anaphylactic Reactions Anaphylactic reactions (sometimes called “anaphylaxis”) are the most serious, sudden, and life-threatening allergic reactions. You develop severe symptoms such as an itchy rash over your entire... read more ) may cause:
For mild reactions, your doctor may give you:
For severe reactions, you may need:
The most important ways to prevent allergic reactions:
Avoiding an allergen may involve:
Stopping a medicine
Keeping pets out of the house or limiting them to certain rooms
Using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums and filters
Not eating a certain food
Removing or replacing items that collect dust, such as soft furniture, carpets, and knickknacks
Putting special covers on mattresses and pillows to keep out dust mites
Using synthetic-fiber pillows
Frequently washing bed sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in hot water
Frequently cleaning the house, including dusting, vacuuming, and wet-mopping
Using air conditioners and dehumidifiers in basements and other damp rooms
Getting rid of cockroaches
With allergy shots, the doctor gives you shots of the substance you're allergic to. At first the shots have only a very, very tiny amount of the substance. The amount is too small to cause a severe reaction. Then the doctor gives you shots that have more and more of the substance. That way, your body can become used to the substance and not react to it. Allergy shots don't always work. And when they do work, you may have to keep getting the shots.
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