Could I Be Allergic? Discover Your Allergy Triggers

Discover Your Allergy Triggers

A woman sneezing due to allergies.

About one in every five people develops allergies. Allergies arise when the immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance known as an allergen. That reaction can be as mild as a sneeze or as deadly as anaphylactic shock. The best way to reduce allergy symptoms is to avoid your allergens. So, what could you be allergic to?

Down, Kitty! Animal Dander

Both cats and dogs can cause allergies.

Do you notice sneezing, coughing, red, watery eyes, or skin rashes every time a furry pet is near? You may be surprised to find that even a furless mammal can cause the same problems! If that’s true, chances are you’re one of the many people who suffers from a pet dander allergy.

Pet dander is a protein mix secreted in an animal’s skin and saliva, so even a hairless cat or a shaven dog could set off allergies. Reduce your allergies by avoiding pet hair and dander. Try vacuuming more often. Investing in a home air filtration system may also be helpful.

Another Reason to Hate Cockroaches

Cockroaches can cause an allergic reaction.

As if you needed one, here’s another reason to hate cockroaches: They can cause allergic reactions like sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes, nose, mouth, and throat. The proteins in cockroach droppings, saliva, and appendages are allergens for some people. And the more cockroaches an area has, the more likely people are to react allergically to them. Some researchers blame cockroaches for increases in asthma rates over the last 30 years.

Is Latex Making You Itchy?

Latex gloves and condoms can cause an allergic skin reaction.

Latex is everywhere. It can be found in medical gloves, condoms, adhesive bandages and even medical devices like catheters and anesthesia equipment. Allergic reactions to latex can be serious, even fatal, although this is rare. Other symptoms include itching, stuffy nose, hives, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. The more you’ve been exposed to latex, the more likely you are to develop latex allergies.

Nickel and Gold Breakouts

Metals like gold jewelry can cause allergic skin reactions.

If earrings make your earlobes itch or your necklace leaves a rash around your neck, you may be allergic to gold or nickel. You may notice redness, rash, dry patches, or swelling. Untreated, these allergies can make the skin dark, leathery, and cracked. Some people with extreme nickel reactions should even avoid nickel-filled foods, such as fish and chocolate.

Trouble Breathing? Could Be Red Food Coloring

Red food dye can make some people allergic.

If you notice hives, itchy skin, wheezing, vomiting, or diarrhea after eating red, orange, pink, or purple dyed foods, you may have a rare allergy to red food coloring. The cause of the reaction is the pregnant cochineal bug, which lives on prickly pear cactuses from Arizona to South America, and specifically, their carmine pigment. Although rare, allergies to red dye can be extremely serious.

From “Ouch” to “Oh No!” Insect Bites and Stings

Some people are very allergic to insects like bees.

If an insect bite or sting develops into swelling, nausea, itching, hives, fatigue, or a low-grade fever, you may be having a mild allergic reaction. Some insect allergies are more serious and can include the severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which produces symptoms like swelling of the face, mouth, tongue, throat, and other serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing and low blood pressure.

Allergy Risks in the Medicine Cabinet

Be aware of serious allergies to medications.

Many people have allergic reactions to medications that range from mild to life-threatening. Although some mild reactions may be treated with antihistamines or steroids, most doctors will suggest that you stop taking the medication. Your doctor may find a substitute medication that you are not allergic to. If you’ve had severe medication allergic reactions, consider carrying an EpiPen and have a medical bracelet or some way to notify medical caregivers of your severe allergy.

That Color Is Not Right for You: Cosmetic Allergies

Make up and other cosmetics can cause allergies.

Have you ever experienced burning, stinging, itchy skin or hives after wearing makeup? You may be among the one in four people who have reported a skin reaction from beauty products. These reactions aren’t limited to makeup, either: allergic reactions to cologne, perfume, or shampoo can have similar results.

Foods That Can Kill

Shell fish allergies can be deadly.

Have you ever felt your throat tighten or your tongue swell after eating something? What about dizziness, shortness of breath, or hives? You may have had an allergic reaction to a food. Food allergy affects about 4 percent of adults and slightly more children. Symptoms of food allergies can also include coughing, vomiting, pale or blue skin coloring, shock, and the potentially life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis. Some common food allergens include eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.

Achoo: Dust Mites

Dust mites can make your allergies worse.

Dust mites are common allergens in most of the U.S. These microscopic mites live in pillows, mattresses, and bedroom carpets and feed on dead skin. Throwing out objects like stuffed animals and complex items that are hard to clean helps reduce dust mite allergies. The environment should be washable and easily wiped down. Washing sheets in hot water and placing pillows and mattresses/box springs in dust mite encasements will also help keep dust mite allergies at bay.

Mischievous Molds

Mold can cause allergies.

If you often find yourself with a runny nose, sneezes, wheezing, itchy throat, and irritated eyes, you may have developed an allergy to mold. Because molds need a lot of moisture to survive and grow, most live in damp or wet areas. Bathrooms and basements are prime areas for molds inside the home, while grass and mulch outside provide good growth conditions. Good ventilation in bathrooms and basements helps dry areas and suppresses mold growth. Cutting grass, raking leaves, and spreading mulch may trigger mold allergy symptoms.

Balsam of Peru

Balsam of Peru is an oil that can cause allergic reactions.

Aside from skin allergies, most allergens come from either foods, medications, or the environment. Balsam of Peru can be all three. It can be found in fragrances (deodorant, baby powder, sunscreen, suntan lotion, shampoo, perfume), flavorings (cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg), and medicine (hemorrhoid cream, cough lozenges, Tiger Balm, calamine lotion). Reactions to balsam of Peru include redness, soreness, swelling, itching, blisters, inflammation of the mouth, lips, and tongue, and if swallowed, can cause the anal area to itch.

Is Your Fragrance Wreaking Havoc?

Tone down the fragrance to prevent allergies.

Headaches, sneezing, watery eyes, dizziness, hives, and rashes can all be caused by fragrances. However, most of these reactions aren’t technically allergic, but rather indicate a sensitivity to certain fragrances. Of the more than 5,000 fragrances used in everything from perfumes and shampoos to paint and dish soap, eight have been proven to cause allergic skin reactions. The rest of the reactions are more properly referred to as sensitivities, which cause symptoms similar to allergies, but not the rare and dangerous condition known as anaphylactic shock.

Additional Information on Allergies

For more information about Allergies, please consider the following:

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on 9/1/2016

Could I Be Allergic? Discover Your Allergy Triggers

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