Watch Out for These Early Signs that You’re Developing an Allergy

Do you have an allergy? When many of us think of allergies, we may think of springtime, when plants start to bloom again, and the wind… Trista - January 14, 2022

Do you have an allergy? When many of us think of allergies, we may think of springtime, when plants start to bloom again, and the wind is blowing pollen around. You can get sniffles or have sinus headaches, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, etc. Those are typical signs of allergies, which usually over-the-counter medications can help treat. There are so many options out there these days to help treat allergies, whether they are seasonal, or you have them all year round. However, there are other allergies, too, where over-the-counter medications won’t help treat them. This is where doctors come in.

No matter the cause of your allergies, they are never any fun to deal with. Something people may also not realize is that humans are not the only ones who can have allergies. Animals can have them, too, with usually similar symptoms as people. In this article, you will read about allergies, the types of allergies, the signs and treatments for these allergies, and more. Hopefully, you find answers to what you are looking for below.


21. What are allergies?

Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, such as pet dander, pollen, or bee venom. Food can even cause a reaction to some that don’t cause a reaction in most other people. Your immune system produces substances known as antibodies, and when you have allergies, these antibodies can identify a particular allergen as harmful, even if it really isn’t.

When you come into contact with a specific allergen, your immune system gets to work, causing a reaction that can inflame your sinuses, airways, skin, or digestive system (via Cleveland Clinic). The severity of allergies varies from person to person since no one person is the same as the next. These reactions can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis (via Mayo Clinic). There is no cure for most allergies. However, there are treatments out there that can help relieve your allergy symptoms.


20. What is an allergic reaction?

As stated above, an allergic reaction is how your body responds when it comes into contact with an allergen. A chain of events may cause a specific result in an allergic reaction (via Cleveland Clinic). Everyone reacts differently to particular allergens, which is not surprising. We said it once and will repeat it: everyone and their bodies are different.

Suppose you are prone to allergies after just one exposure to a specific allergen, such as pollen or animal dander like from a cat. In that case, your body responds by producing allergic antibodies. The antibodies find the allergens and help remove them from your system. A chemical called histamine is released and causes the symptoms you show from an allergy (via Mayo Clinic).


19. A pollen allergy.

You may have heard of hay fever, also known as season allergic rhinitis, which is an allergic reaction to pollen. This allergic response causes inflammation and swelling of the lining in your nose and your eyes’ protective tissue, also known as conjunctiva (via Cleveland Clinic). The hay fever symptoms include congestion, feeling stuffed up, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes, nose, and mouth. Some treatment options to treat pollen allergies include over-the-counter or prescription medications such as oral antihistamines and nasal cromolyn.

Those who have asthma or allergy-induced asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and or tightness of the chest when exposed to pollen (via Mayo Clinic). By avoiding pollen, you can help to reduce your symptoms. When pollen counts are high, stay indoors, when possible, close your windows and use air conditioning. Suppose you cannot control your allergies with oral medication or nasal spray. Then it would be best if you asked your healthcare provider about immunotherapy, an allergy shot, to treat your pollen allergy.


18. Looking deeper into allergic rhinitis.

As mentioned above, allergic rhinitis, also known as “hay fever”, is an allergic reaction to tiny particles in the air, called allergens. When you breathe in these allergens through your mouth or nose, your body reacts by releasing a natural chemical known as histamine. Several outdoor and indoor allergens can cause hay fever for anyone.

Some common causes of allergic rhinitis include mold, dust mites, pet dander, and of course, pollen from trees and other plants (via Cleveland Clinic). You can very well have hay fever at any time of the year. You may have heard of seasonal allergies, which occur in the spring, summer, and early fall when weeds and trees bloom and pollen counts increase. Perennial allergies are allergies that can happen year-round. Irritants always around, such as pet dander, dust mites, and pesky cockroaches, cause this type of allergy (via Healthline).


17. The hidden allergen, dust mites.

Not everyone knows about dust mites. However, you should know that they live pretty much everywhere, and you can’t see them with the naked eye! Like tiny organisms, dust mites live in dust and the fibers of household objects, such as carpets, upholstery, mattresses, and pillows. They grow in warm, humid areas, as well. Dust mite allergy symptoms are relatively similar to those of a pollen allergy (via Cleveland Clinic).

To help manage your dust mite allergies, there are a few things you can do around your home to reduce the possibility of them being everywhere. Although it is hard to eliminate them completely, and sometimes it is almost impossible, these tricks may help. Try using dust mite encasements, which are airtight plastic or polyurethane covers, over your pillows, mattresses, and box springs. Removing carpet or vacuuming frequently with a high-efficiency filter vacuum cleaner can also help to eliminate dust mites in your home (via Healthline). Treatment for this allergy includes medications to control your eye, nasal and chest symptoms. Your doctor may recommend immunotherapy if you cannot already control your symptoms with drugs and avoidance methods.


16. Your pets may be causing your allergy symptoms, as well.

Sweat glands secrete proteins in an animal’s skin that are shed in pet dander, which can cause allergic reactions and the proteins in an animal’s saliva (via Cleveland Clinic). Taking avoidance measures such as removing the pet from your home doesn’t always work so well. Besides, who wants to get rid of a beloved pet if they don’t have to? However, because many people are reluctant to do so, who can blame them, right? The second-best measures can be done, such as keeping your pet out of your bedroom, washing your pet, whether it’s a cat or dog, frequently, and using air cleaners with HEPA filtration. Treatment to help with this allergy may include medications that control your chest, nasal, and eye symptoms (via Healthline). As with other allergies, immunotherapy may be an option, as well.


15. Another allergen to watch out for is different types of molds.

No one likes to know that there is mold in their home for so many reasons. Molds are tiny fungi, just like Penicillium, with spores that float in the air like pollen. You may not think about it, but mold is a common trigger for allergies (via Cleveland Clinic). Mold can grow indoors if the area is damp and dark, such as bathrooms, basements, and kitchens. You can also discover mold outdoors in leaf piles, grass, hay, mulch, or underneath mushrooms. The spores from mold reach a peak during hot and humid weather. You can use the same treatment for pollen and pet dander to treat your mold allergy (via Healthline).

Surprisingly, mold allergies can even affect your diet. Most dairy products, like cheese, sour cream and buttermilk, contain mold because they’ve undergone fermentation. Baked goods may also contain dairy products that underwent fermentation. Check labels before you eat. Another mold/food offender for some is a pretty obvious one: mushrooms. Mushrooms, a fungus, contain mold. Whether cooked or raw, in a soup or on a salad, they can trigger sneezing, wheezing and other uncomfortable symptoms.


14. Dealing with a latex allergy.

Like many allergies, they can appear just as suddenly as they can disappear. Some people develop a latex allergy after they have repeated contact with latex. Rubber gloves, such as those used in home cleaning or surgery, are a significant source of causing this type of reaction. Some symptoms that may occur when you have a latex allergy include hives, rash, eye irritation and tearing, itching of the skin, and wheezing (via Cleveland Clinic). Allergic reactions to latex can be mild, with skin redness and itching. However, if you have a more severe reaction, this could be caused by your mucosal membranes being exposed during an operation or dental or gynecologic exam.

Removing the offending latex product is the first thing to do when treating a latex reaction (via Healthline). If you have a latex allergy, you need to wear a Medic Alert bracelet to let others know, in case of an emergency, and carry an emergency epinephrine kit with you, as well. Let those who will be doing anything medical for you and those who have things such as balloons at a party know about your allergy. There is no cure for a latex allergy, so the best treatment for this condition is to avoid and prevent a reaction.


13. Bug bites and bee stings can also cause allergic reactions.

A typical reaction to a bee sting includes swelling, pain, and redness around the site where you were stung (via Cleveland Clinic). A large, local response to a bee sting includes swelling beyond the sting site. An example of this would be if you were stung on the ankle, you may see swelling in your leg. You want to look out for any severe reactions to an insect sting or bite that is an allergic reaction. If you have an allergic reaction, seek immediate medical attention.

There are a few things to watch out for to determine if you are having an allergic reaction to a sting or bite. That includes generalized or widespread hives that appear as a red, itchy rash that spreads to areas other than where you were stung. Also, look for face, mouth, or throat tissue swelling. You could have difficulty breathing, as well as wheezing or trouble swallowing (via Mayo Clinic). Other symptoms include rapid pulse, restlessness and anxiety, and dizziness or a sharp drop in your blood pressure. If you happen to react like this, a re-sting can cause a serious reaction that can be life-threatening. You can treat allergic reactions like those above with epinephrine or adrenaline. If you have had an allergic reaction like that with a bug bite or sting, see a board-certified allergy immunologist to get a blood or skin test to ensure your allergy to the insect venom. Of course, doctors recommend venom immunotherapy if medical professionals confirm a venom allergy.


12. What it means to have food allergies.

No allergy is fun to have, no matter what causes the allergy. Food allergies are pretty common but can also be a frustrating allergy, especially when you are out with friends or family and stop for a bite to eat somewhere. This type of allergy develops when your body produces a specific antibody to a particular food. An allergic reaction occurs within minutes of eating the food, and symptoms can be mild to severe (via Cleveland Clinic).

Adults’ most common food allergies include egg, milk, wheat, shellfish, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts. If you have a food allergy, your symptoms may include hives, nausea, vomiting, itching, diarrhea, swelling around your mouth, and difficulties breathing. Because of the severity of symptoms, it is imperative to avoid foods that cause allergy symptoms. If you or your child have a food allergy, your doctor may prescribe injectable epinephrine to have on you at all times. You need this shot if you accidentally eat foods that cause an allergic reaction (via Mayo Clinic). Make sure to ask about what your food includes to ensure that it doesn’t contain food you are allergic to. Furthermore, it shouldn’t even come in contact on a prep area with food that you are allergic to.

Read this too: Eat These Anti-Allergy Superfoods to Say Goodbye to Allergies.


11. The difference between a food allergy and food intolerance.

Some people may think that food allergies and food intolerances are the same, but that is actually not true. Allergies cause a response in your immune system that can be life-threatening in some cases (via Healthline). In contrast, food intolerances cause a reaction in your digestive system (via NHS). If your body cannot tolerate certain foods, it means it’s that type of food intolerance. However, you may be able to eat a small amount of that food without experiencing any symptoms. If you have an intolerance, then you know that it can be uncomfortable.

Food allergies affect about 1% of the adult population and about 7% of children. However, like any other type of allergy, some children do outgrow their food allergies. Being intolerable to certain foods is actually more common. Nearly everyone has had some unpleasant reaction to something they ate at one time or another. Some people have particular food intolerances that they never outgrow. Take lactose intolerance, for instance. It’s the most common specific food intolerance, which affects about 10% of the American population.


10. More about the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance.

You can trigger food allergies even by the smallest amount you are allergic to. Every time you come in contact with or consume that food, you will have a reaction. People who have food allergies must avoid these allergic foods altogether. On the other hand, the cases of food intolerances are often dose-related, meaning people with food intolerance may not have symptoms unless they eat a large enough portion of the food or eat the food frequently (via NHS).

Someone with lactose intolerance, for example, may be able to drink milk in coffee or have a single glass of milk with no symptoms, but if they were to drink several glasses of milk in a short period, they would become sick. Food intolerances and allergies are also different from food poisoning, which generally results from tainted or spoiled food and affects more than one person eating that same food. If you feel that you may be food intolerant to something, your healthcare provider can help you determine if it really is intolerance or if you happen to have a food allergy. From there, your doctor will help you establish a plan to help control your symptoms.


9. The symptoms for the different types of allergies.

Again, with different types of allergies come different types of symptoms. If you have a food allergy, you may show signs of swelling, tingling in the mouth, swelling of the tongue, lip, face, or throat, or even anaphylaxis. With atopic dermatitis, you may experience itching, redness, and flaking or peeling of the skin. An insect sting allergy can cause a large area of swelling, also known as edema, at the sting site, itching, or hives that may appear all over the body, cough, chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath, or anaphylaxis.

If you have hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, you may experience a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, red, watery, swollen, or itchy eyes, called conjunctivitis (via Healthline). Symptoms of a drug allergy include itchy skin, a rash, hives, wheezing, facial swelling, or even anaphylaxis. Suppose you experience any of these allergic reactions. In that case, it is vital to contact your healthcare provider right away so that they can diagnose you properly and come up with a treatment plan with you quickly.


8. What is anaphylaxis?

Some types of allergies, including allergies to insect stings or bites and food allergies, can trigger a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis. Although we already mentioned this, it’s essential to know precisely what anaphylaxis is and know if you are experiencing it. It is a life-threatening medical emergency, which can cause you to go into shock (via Mayo Clinic). So that is why it’s crucial to know what the signs are, so you know what to look out for.

The signs of anaphylaxis include a drop in blood pressure or even loss of consciousness (via Mayo Clinic). You could also develop a skin rash or experience severe shortness of breath. You could also experience a rapid or weak pulse, nausea and vomiting, and lightheadedness. If you happen to experience any of these symptoms after coming into contact with an allergen, get medical help right away. It’s also important to let your doctor know of these symptoms. That way, you can discuss a treatment plan. It will help you become aware of how to prepare and treat yourself if you go into anaphylaxis shock in the future.


7. Who gets allergies and how common are they?

Interestingly, most allergies are inherited, meaning parents pass them down to children. People tend to be allergic to things, although not to any specific allergen. If your child happens to develop an allergy to something, it is very likely that your partner or you also have allergies. The number of people who have any type of allergy increases across all sex, age, and racial groups. More than 50 million Americans, meaning 1 in 6, experience all kinds of allergies, including outdoor or indoor allergies, drug and food allergies, insect, latex, and skin and eye allergies (via Cleveland Clinic). With that being said, if you have an allergic reaction or an allergy diagnosis, don’t worry. You are not alone. Chances are good many people in your family already deal with that allergy. They can help you navigate how to deal with the symptoms and avoid triggers. That way, you can still have a happy, healthy life.


6. Receiving an allergy diagnosis.

It’s not a good idea to wait and see if your symptoms go away if you think you have allergies. Make an appointment with an allergy or immunology specialist if your symptoms last longer than a week or two and tend to come back and repeat. Doctors often diagnose allergies by an allergy skin test, which helps identify the allergens causing your symptoms. They perform this test by pricking your skin with an extract of a particular allergen. Then the specialist checks your skin’s reaction to that allergen shortly after (via Cleveland Clinic).

If you cannot have a skin test performed for any reason, doctors may obtain blood work (via Healthline). However, this test is not nearly as sensitive as a skin test. A blood test evaluates the number of antibodies produced by your immune system, and the higher the levels of specific antibodies will suggest a possible allergy to that allergen. They can also perform other types of allergy testing.


5. Understanding different types of allergy testing.

Doctors can perform different tests to help diagnose someone with a specific allergy. Yes, there is the skin prick or scratch test. This is where the specialist uses a thin needle to prick the skin on your back or forearm. The specialist uses anywhere from 10 to 50 different potential allergens (via Cleveland Clinic). However, the doctor may decide to do what is known as a scratch test. This involves placing droplets of potential allergens onto your skin and using a device to puncture the area by scratching the droplet lightly. If your skin prick test results are negative or inconclusive, your provider may inject small amounts of the allergen into the outer layer of your skin, called an intradermal skin test (via Healthline). This test checks for allergies to medications, insect stings, and airborne irritants.


4. More details you should know about allergy testing.

Another test that was also already mentioned was a blood test. This is where the lab adds allergens to the blood sample and measure the levels of IgE antibodies in it. Blood tests, however, can give a higher rate of false-positive results. A different allergy test, called a patch test, can also be done. This test helps to determine the cause of contact dermatitis. A drop of an allergen on the skin of your arm is covered with a bandage. Sometimes, the dressing already has the allergen on it before placing it on your skin.

This bandage stays on for 48 to 96 hours (via Cleveland Clinic). After that time has passed, you are able to go home, of course. Then, you return, and they will remove the bandage to check your skin for a rash or any other reaction. Another test they can perform is called the challenge test (via Healthline). This test is done only under a provider’s direct in-person supervision. This is where someone who has a suspected food or drug allergy ingests a small amount of an allergen. This is why medical supervision is a must. If you develop anaphylaxis, your doctor can give an epinephrine injection to stop the potentially life-threatening reaction.


3. Don’t rely on at-home allergy tests.

You can buy over-the-counter allergy test kits or online at your local drug store. However, these tests are not very reliable. Some of these tests don’t test for the correct antibodies (via Cleveland Clinic). You are also more likely to get a false positive, which may lead you to avoid unnecessarily certain foods or substances (via Cleveland Clinic). However, you can understand why some would instead go the home testing route over going into a clinic to get testing done professionally. Not all health insurances fully cover the cost of allergy tests at your healthcare provider’s office. The costs for testing can range anywhere from $200 up to $1000. It’s a good idea to ask your insurer about your plan’s policies, so you know what to expect from them. It’s best to get allergy tests with a medical expert, of course, even with the costs of having them done. They not only are more accurate, but they can also read the results to you and discuss any treatment options with you, as well.


2. Things to do if you have an allergy.

There are a few things you can do if you have an allergy. Depending on the allergy you may have, your healthcare provider may recommend one or more different options that you can do to help treat your allergies. Antihistamines can reduce or even prevent allergic rhinitis and other symptoms, so taking a daily allergy medication may be suggested (via Cleveland Clinic). Easier said than done. Your doctor may also suggest minimizing exposure to allergens. For example, avoiding allergens that cause severe reactions, such as certain foods or latex, will help.

You can also get allergy shots to treat your allergies, as well. This type of immunotherapy can decrease the immune system’s response to specific allergens like pet dander. Having a medical alert card, bracelet, or necklace with you is also a good idea (via Mayo Clinic). This card or medical alert jewelry lets others know about your severe allergy. It tells others that you could have an anaphylactic response to bee stings, peanuts, or other allergens. Carrying epinephrine on you if you happen to have a severe allergy with major side effects is also essential. This is in case you are at risk for an anaphylactic allergic reaction. Does somebody nearby know you have an allergy? If you cannot administer it yourself, they can use it on you.


1. Complications from having an allergic reaction.

With allergies and allergy symptoms, there come complications in most cases. Having an allergy to anything increases your risk of specific other medical problems, so talking with your doctor about your allergies and symptoms is a good idea. More mild complications, but still important to treat are sinusitis and infections of the ears or lungs (via Mayo Clinic). Your risk of getting these conditions happens to be higher if you have hay fever or asthma.

If you have yet to be diagnosed with asthma but have an allergic reaction to anything, your healthcare provider may bring it up. Suppose they don’t mention it; in that case, you should. Asthma is an immune system reaction that affects your airways and breathing. In many cases, exposure to an allergen in the environment triggers it. This is known as allergy-induced asthma. As mentioned, anaphylaxis is a significant complication. If you have severe allergies, you are at an increased risk of this severe allergy-induced reaction no matter what it’s to. The most common triggers of anaphylaxis are medications, food, and insect stings.

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