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Allergies: Just The Facts

Understanding what they are

What’s an allergy?

An allergy is a reaction that the body has to a particular food or substance.

Allergies are really common. They’re thought to affect more than one in four people in the UK at some point in their lives.

They’re most common in children. Some allergies go away as a child gets older, although many are lifelong. Adults can develop allergies to things they weren’t previously allergic to.

Having an allergy can be a nuisance and affect your everyday activities, but most allergic reactions are mild and can be largely kept under control. Severe reactions can occasionally occur, but these are uncommon.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction

Allergic reactions usually happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen (trigger) which makes your body respond.

They can cause:

  • sneezing
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • red, itchy, watery eyes
  • wheezing and coughing
  • a red, itchy rash
  • worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms

Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur. This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.

Getting help for allergies

  1. See your family doctor (GP) if you think you might have had an allergic reaction to something.
  2. The symptoms of an allergic reaction can also be caused by other conditions. Your GP can help determine whether it’s likely you have an allergy.
  3. If your GP thinks you might have a mild allergy, they can offer advice and treatment to help manage the condition.
  4. If your allergy is particularly severe or it’s not clear what you’re allergic to, your GP may refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and advice about treatment.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your Public Health Nurse (School Nurse).

Cross Hatch

Find help in your local area

Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.