What causes allergies?
You have an allergy when your body overreacts to things that don’t cause problems for most people. These things are called allergens. Your body’s overreaction to the allergens is what causes symptoms.
For example, sometimes the term “hay fever” is used to describe your body’s allergic reaction to seasonal allergens in the air such as grass or pollen.
Keeping a record of your allergy symptoms over a period of time can help you and your doctor identify which allergens cause you to overreact.
Your doctor may want to do an allergy skin test to help determine exactly what is causing your allergy. An allergy skin test puts tiny amounts of allergens onto your skin to see which ones you react to.
Once you know which allergens you are allergic to, you and your doctor can decide the best treatment.
Common allergy symptoms: Runny nose, watery eyes, itchy nose, eyes and roof of mouth, sneezing, stuffy nose, pressure in the nose and cheeks, ear fullness and popping, dark circles under the eyes and hives.
What are the most common allergens?
Pollen from trees, grass and weeds: Allergies that occur in the spring are often due to tree pollen. Allergies that occur in the summer are often due to grass and weed pollen. Allergies that occur in the fall are often due to ragweed.
Mould: Mould is common where water tends to collect, such as shower curtains, window mouldings and damp basements. It can also be found in rotting logs, hay, mulches, commercial peat moss, compost piles and leaf litter. This allergy is usually worse during humid and rainy weather.
Animal dander: Proteins found in the skin, saliva and urine of furry pets such as cats and dogs are allergens. You can be exposed to dander when handling an animal or from house dust that contains dander.
Dust: Many allergens, including dust mites, are in dust. Dust mites are tiny living creatures found in bedding, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. They live on dead skin cells and other things found in house dust.
How can I avoid allergens?
Pollen: Shower or bathe before bedtime to wash off pollen and other allergens in your hair and on your skin. Avoid going outside, especially on dry, windy days. Keep windows and doors shut and use an air conditioner at home and in your car.
Mould: You can reduce the amount of mould in your home by removing houseplants and by frequently cleaning shower curtains, bathroom windows, damp walls, areas with dry rot and indoor trash cans. Use a mix of water and chlorine bleach to kill mould. Open doors and windows and use fans to increase air movement and help prevent mould.
Pet dander: If your allergies are severe, you may need to give your pets away or at least keep them outside. Cat or dog dander often collects in house dust and takes four weeks or more to die down.
However, there are ways to reduce the amounts of pet dander in your home. Using allergen-resistant bedding, bathing your pet frequently and using an air filter can help reduce pet dander. Ask your veterinarian for other ways to reduce pet dander in your home.
Dust and dust mites: To reduce dust mites in your home, remove drapes, feather pillows, upholstered furniture, non-washable comforters and soft toys.
Replace carpets with linoleum or wood. Polished floors are best. Mop the floor often with a damp mop and wipe surfaces with a damp cloth.