If you suspect you have allergies, keep a record of your symptoms, including when they start and what seems to trigger them. Information about potential allergy triggers will help your doctor when taking your medical history.
The reason why people’s allergy symptoms are triggered by different things (allergens) has to do with certain antibodies produced by the body’s immune system.
Antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) are produced when the immune system overreacts to allergens. They set off a cellular chain reaction resulting in an allergic reaction. Each type of IgE has a “radar” for a specific allergen, so the allergic reaction is a response to that particular trigger.
There are many things that can cause allergies. Some of the most common allergens include:
Pollen grains are tiny, reproductive cells produced by plants. Many species of trees, grasses, and weeds produce pollen, which is then carried by the wind and can cause allergic rhinitis.
Pollen is one of the most common triggers of seasonal allergies. These allergies typically occur in early spring, summer, and fall, but can occur at different points in the year depending on weather conditions and where you live.
Animal fur or hair, contrary to common misconception, is not a significant cause of allergies. But it can collect dust, mold, pollen, and other allergens. More commonly, pet dander (dead skin cells), saliva, and urine may trigger an allergic reaction, according to one article.
Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. While some breeds may be more allergy-friendly than others, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat.
More than 170 foods can cause allergies, but 90 percent of all food allergens fall into certain groups, including fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, tree nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts), and peanuts, noted an article.
An estimated 8 percent of U.S. children have food allergies, according to a survey.
Mold, a type of fungi, can live almost anywhere, and it thrives in damp environments. Mold spores (which are even smaller than pollen) are released into the air, where they spread via wind or humidity and can be inhaled.
Although there are many types of mold, only a few cause allergies. When found indoors (usually in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements), they can cause allergy symptoms year round.
Cockroaches and their droppings are a common trigger for allergies and asthma. Studies show that children who are allergic and exposed to cockroaches need to go to the hospital for asthma more than other children with asthma.
Dust mites are tiny, eight-legged creatures too small to see with the naked eye. They are also one of the most common triggers of year-round allergies. Dust mites feed on tiny bits of human skin. Humans shed approximately 1.5 grams (g) of skin cells daily, which is enough to feed one million dust mites.
Insect Bites and Stings
Most people recover from an insect bite or bee sting in a matter of hours or days with minor pain, itching, and swelling at the site.
Stinging insects inject tiny amounts of venom, which can cause a life-threatening reaction in people who are allergic. Stings from five insects — honeybees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets, and fire ants — are commonly known to cause allergic reactions.
Fortunately, most biting insects, such as mosquitoes or fleas, rarely cause extreme reactions.
Latex is a natural rubber used in products such as balloons and disposable gloves. A latex allergy can cause a mild allergic reaction (swelling, redness, and itching) from skin contact.
In rare cases, latex can cause hives, difficulty breathing, or even anaphylaxis.
Less than 1 percent of Americans have a latex allergy. It’s more common among healthcare workers and others who regularly wear latex gloves. Individuals who have undergone multiple surgical procedures over their lifetime, especially children with spina bifida, are at increased risk as well. Synthetic latex found in paint does not cause allergies.
Medication can cause both allergic and nonallergic reactions. Allergic reactions can be mild (such as a skin rash or nasal symptoms) or life-threatening (anaphylaxis).
All medication can cause side effects, but only 5 to 10 percent of adverse reactions are allergic.