An allergy is a physical response to an antigen. The antigen can be a common substance that produces little or no response in the general population. Antigens that can trigger allergic reactions include pollen, animal dander (flakes of skin), dust mites, food, and fungal spores. Allergic symptoms are generally mild, including a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, or itchy swellings of the skin. However, some people have extreme and life-threatening reactions to allergies. Many of the symptoms of allergy result from the release of histamine by cells that are exposed to the antigen. Drugs called antihistamines help counteract the effects of histamine and can relieve some symptoms of allergies.
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