Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system. The body’s defenses react to a normally harmless substance such as pollen, animal dander or food.
Almost anything can cause an allergic reaction, which can range from mild and annoying to sudden and life-threatening. Read about the 9 most common causes of allergies.
Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds can trigger hay fever or seasonal allergies. You may have symptoms such as a runny nose, stuffy nose, and itchy or watery eyes. Treatments include prescription and over-the-counter medications and injections. Avoid symptoms by staying indoors, closing the windows, and turning on the air conditioning on dangerous days when pollen counts are at their peak.
Proteins secreted by the oil glands of an animal’s skin and present in saliva can cause allergic reactions in some people. It can take two or more years for the allergy to develop, and symptoms do not disappear for at least two months after the animal is removed. If your pet is prone to allergies, keep them out of your bedroom, avoid carpets, and bathe them regularly. Vacuuming can also help.
Dust mites are tiny organisms that live in house dust. They thrive in high humidity and feed on dead skin cells from humans and pets, as well as pollen, bacteria and fungi. You can prevent dust mite allergy by covering mattresses, pillows and box springs with hypoallergenic pillows, washing bedding in hot water weekly and keeping items that collect a lot of dust, such as stuffed animals, carpets and curtains, away from the house.
With an allergy to insect bites, there is a risk of an allergic reaction, which can even be life-threatening. Symptoms include severe swelling and redness from the sting or bite that can last a week or more, fever, nausea, fatigue, and low-grade fever. In rare cases, insect bites can cause a severe reaction (anaphylaxis), difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, throat or mouth, rapid heartbeat, itching, rash, dizziness or a sudden drop in blood pressure. If you have a severe allergic reaction, you should take adrenaline immediately after the sting.
Inhaling or coming into contact with mold or mold spores can cause an allergic reaction in some people. There are many types of mold and they all need moisture to grow. It can be found in damp areas like basements or bathrooms, as well as in the grass or mulch. Avoid activities that trigger mold symptoms, such as raking leaves. Ventilate all damp areas in your home.
Milk, shellfish, eggs and nuts are among the most common foods that trigger allergies. An allergic reaction usually occurs within minutes of consuming the food. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling around the mouth. Avoid foods you know you are allergic to. If you are exposed to them, you may need an adrenaline injection.
Latex material in gloves, condoms, and some medical devices can cause an allergy. Symptoms include a rash, eye irritation, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, and itchy skin or nose. Allergic reactions can range from skin redness and itching to anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can cause breathing difficulties and a rash. If you are allergic, wear an allergy bracelet and an adrenaline kit.
Symptoms of a drug allergy such as penicillin or aspirin can range from mild to life-threatening and may include hives, itchy eyes, stuffy eyes, swelling of the face, mouth, and throat. It’s best to avoid the drug altogether. However, if you do come into contact with it, your doctor may recommend treating mild symptoms with antihistamines or steroids. Adrenaline may be required for severe allergy symptoms.
Fragrances are found in products such as perfumes, scented candles, detergents and cosmetics and can cause mild to severe health problems. For most people, symptoms subside once the smell wears off. However, for some, repeated exposure leads to more symptoms that occur more frequently and last longer. There is controversy as to whether reactions to fragrances are true allergies or just your body’s response to a stimulus.