Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system. People who have allergies have an immune system that reacts to a usually harmless substance in the environment. This substance (pollen, mold, and animal dander, for example) is called an allergen.

Allergies are a very common problem, affecting at least 2 out of every 10 Americans.



  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, runny nose
  • Rashes
  • Feeling tired or ill
  • Hives (a rash with raised red patches)

The most severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. In anaphylaxis, allergens cause a whole-body allergic reaction that can include:

  • Hives and itching all over (not just in the exposed area)
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness or tightness in the throat
  • Tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp