What Are The 4 Types of Allergic Reactions?

Reviewed on 11/2/2020

What Are Allergic Reactions?

Four different types of allergic reactions are immediate, cytotoxic, immune-complex mediated and delayed hypersensitivity reactions.
Four different types of allergic reactions are immediate, cytotoxic, immune-complex mediated and delayed hypersensitivity reactions.
Allergic reactions occur when the body’s immune system has a reaction to a substance it sees as harmful, called an allergen

What Are The 4 Types of Allergic Reactions?

In 1963, two British immunologists, Robert Coombs and Philip Gell, classified four different types of hypersensitivity reactions:

  • Immediate (type I)
    • Symptoms appear after a few seconds to minutes
      • Anaphylactic reactions: the most severe form of allergic reaction
      • Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that can lead to sudden, life-threatening respiratory failure
    • Symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling, low blood pressure, bluish skin, and shock
    • IgE antibodies are produced by the immune system in response to allergens such as pollen, animal dander, insect bites, dust mites, or certain foods
  • Cytotoxic (type II)
    • Symptoms appear after minutes to hours
    • IgG and IgM antibodies damage cells by activating the complement system of the immune system such as in:
  • Immune complex-mediated (type III)
    • Symptoms set in after several hours
    • IgM and IgG antibodies react with allergens to form immunocomplexes (antigen-antibody complexes) such as in: 
  • Delayed hypersensitivity (type IV)

What Are Symptoms of Allergic Reactions?

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

Call 911 and get to a hospital’s emergency department if you experience any symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction: 

  • Severe skin rashes, itching, or hives
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat (throat closing)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing 
  • Chest tightness
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and/or fainting
  • Stomach pain, bloating, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Uterine cramps
  • Sense that something awful is about to happen

What Causes Allergic Reactions?

Many things can cause allergic reactions. Some of the most common allergy triggers include: 

  • Drugs
  • Certain foods
  • Insect stings/bites
  • Latex
  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen

QUESTION

Allergies can best be described as: See Answer

What Is the Treatment for Allergic Reactions?

The best way to treat allergic reactions is to prevent them by avoiding known allergens. Remove allergens from your home if possible. To reduce symptoms of airborne allergens, you can wash out your nose daily with a squeeze bottle filled with nasal saline rinse or by using a or a Neti pot.

Medicines to treat symptoms of an allergic reaction include:  

  • Nasal corticosteroids: most effective for nasal allergies
  • Antihistamines: for seasonal and indoor allergies
  • Mast cell stabilizers: to help with itchy, watery eyes or an itchy, runny nose
  • Decongestants: to reduce stuffiness
    • Do not use nasal decongestant sprays more than three days in a row or you may experience a rebound reaction, where swelling and stuffiness in the nose gets worse
  • Corticosteroid creams or ointments: to relieve itchiness and stop the spread of rashes
  • Oral corticosteroids: to reduce swelling and stop severe allergic reactions 
  • Epinephrine: for life-threatening anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)
    • Usually in the form of an epinephrine auto-injector “pen” device
    • Must be used within minutes of the first sign of serious allergic reaction
    • For life-threatening allergic reactions to food, insect stings, latex, and medications 

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Reviewed on 11/2/2020
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