Posted: February 2024
(4 Minute Read)
Maybe it starts with a tickle in your throat or perhaps a runny nose. Before you know it, your allergies are full-blown, and you're left feeling miserable.
Allergy triggers stimulate your body's immune response to substances that the body perceives as threats and can cause a variety of symptoms, including itchy eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose, hives, rashes and sometimes even life-threatening conditions. But, what causes allergies exactly?
There's a variety of different triggers or causes behind those pesky allergies. Consulting an allergist is recommended, but in the meantime, check out the list we've compiled of possible allergy triggers.
One of the most common culprits of allergy symptoms is pollen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 60 million people experience allergies associated with pollen or other allergens each year in the U.S. Pollen can come from trees, flowering plants, grass and weeds and can be seasonal in duration. Most who experience allergies from pollen encounter hay fever, runny nose and congestion. Others might experience itchy, watery and red eyes.
If you also suffer from asthma, pollen allergies can worsen symptoms and, in severe cases, lead to hospitalization. However, in some cases, lifestyle modifications can help: Consider staying inside on high pollen days or showering after being outside.
Allergy symptoms that can't be controlled with over-the-counter (OTC) medications may require prescription treatment.
You're not the only one with dust bunnies under your bed, but did you know that dust mites can also be a cause of allergy symptoms? These microscopic insects thrive in household dust and can trigger allergies for some people. They are often found in carpeting, bedding and upholstered furniture and can cause a variety of symptoms. You might experience nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, itchy or watery eyes, facial pressure or pain, and skin rashes.
If you've been diagnosed with a dust mite allergy, some of the best ways to minimize the symptoms are to vacuum and dust regularly, wash bedding weekly and keep your home's humidity levels low. OTC medications, such as Zyrtec and Flonase, may also help.
Allergy symptoms can also appear when you're around animals if you have a pet dander (tiny skin flakes) allergy. Proteins in the pet's saliva, urine, fur and dander can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. These allergy symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy skin and more. According to the Mayo Clinic, pet allergies are extremely common, but if there's a family history of allergies or you suffer from asthma, you're more likely to develop pet allergies.
To help treat the symptoms of pet allergies, limiting exposure to animals is ideal. Wash your hands immediately after touching or petting an animal. Then, shower and change your clothes as soon as you can to avoid extended exposure. If you're in frequent contact with animals, other options include daily allergy medications, corticosteroids and decongestants.
Another trigger for some people is mold spores. Mold can be found growing in damp areas, releasing spores into the air that can trigger allergies. Symptoms associated with a mold allergy include respiratory difficulties, skin irritation and worsening asthma. Some other more minor symptoms include sneezing, stuffy nose and watery eyes.
In addition to limiting exposure, other treatment options include running a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels low in your home and ensuring proper ventilation in bathrooms.
It's also possible for an insect sting to be problematic in some people. Bee and wasp stings can lead to life-threatening allergic reactions, like anaphylaxis, and often require immediate medical attention. Less severe symptoms can include congestion, hives, swelling, itching, and itchy or watery eyes.
An epinephrine autoinjector, commonly known as EpiPen, is required to help stop symptoms for people who suffer from anaphylaxis after an insect sting. Those whose reactions aren't as severe can use anti-itch ointment or hydrocortisone on the sting and an OTC anti-inflammatory medication for any swelling and pain, or symptoms associated with a mold allergy. Some might also benefit from an antihistamine taken by mouth.
These allergies occur when your body adversely reacts to ingesting a certain type of food. These allergic reactions typically begin within the first few minutes of eating the specific food and can lead to mild or severe reactions. Certain foods, such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish are common triggers.
Reading food labels and being cautious about cross-contamination are important steps for individuals with food allergies. For minor reactions, such as hives, antihistamines may be helpful. However, for major reactions, those with severe food allergies should always carry their EpiPen.
Allergies can also be triggered by substances that are touched or ingested, such as latex, certain medicines (like penicillin) and insects (such as cockroach droppings). The symptoms associated with these triggers can vary based on your sensitivity. Similar to other allergic reactions, limiting exposure and keeping a clean environment can be helpful. Once you've learned what causes allergies, you can take the necessary steps to avoid them.
Allergies can pose a challenge to your day-to-day life, but knowing your triggers can help minimize symptoms. Remember that allergies can be triggered by a variety of substances, including pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, insect stings, foods, latex, medications and insect allergens. Once you can recognize your specific allergy triggers, effective management and appropriate precautions can help, such as avoiding exposure and seeking medical advice when necessary. This knowledge will lead to a better quality of life with, hopefully, fewer sniffles.
These articles are intended for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in these articles. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise or medication regimen.