Almost anything, including foods, animals, medications and airborne substances, can cause an allergic reaction. Allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe, and from localized to systemic. Most allergic reactions are mild and easily treatable, but occasionally, a severe reaction can become life-threatening. One symptom that has the potential to become very serious is a feeling of tightness or heaviness in the chest. If you are concerned about chest heaviness, do not delay in seeking medical help.
Some people who are allergic to pollen, pet dander and dust mites suffer from the symptoms of asthma in response to exposure to these allergens. Chest heaviness or tightness, wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing are symptoms of allergy-induced asthma. In many cases, daily medication can stave off this type of asthma attack, as can avoiding the substances that trigger the reaction. Ask your doctor whether allergy shots can help; these injections gradually help your body build up a tolerance to the offending substance, helping you to avoid a potentially dangerous allergic reaction.
Anaphylaxis, sometimes called anaphylactic shock, is a severe and life-threatening reaction to an allergen, usually a food, insect sting or medication. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness and heart palpitations. If you experience chest heaviness in addition to its other symptoms, which might include swelling of the throat or mouth, tingling of the tongue or lips, lightheadedness or abdominal cramping, call 911. These symptoms can rapidly escalate into a loss of consciousness or death. If you have an anaphylactic reaction, your doctor may refer you to an allergist for testing and to teach you how to treat such a reaction in the future with an injectable form of epinephrine.
Medication Side Effects
If you have seasonal allergies, you may take a decongestant to alleviate your symptoms of nasal congestion, headache and ear pain. Unfortunately, decongestants, particularly those containing pseudoephedrine, can cause chest heaviness, tightness and heart arrhythmias. These medications should be avoided if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or other heart risk factors, as heart conditions can make the side effects of decongestants more severe. If you have taken pseudoephedrine and experience troubling side effects, stop taking them and contact your doctor for advice.
Any chest pain or heaviness can be a symptom of a heart attack or other serious heart condition, so do not assume that it is being caused by an allergy. A sudden or severe heaviness, squeezing pain, pain that radiates to the jaw or neck, shortness of breath or a racing heart are all indications to call 911. If you have allergy-induced asthma and your regular medications are not controlling your symptoms, contact your doctor or seek emergency medical care. If chest heaviness is accompanied by trouble breathing, call 911.