You experience allergic reactions when your body’s immune system reacts to a specific substance it comes in contact with. Your immune system thinks that the substance will be harmful, so it reacts quickly to try and eliminate it and protect your body.
There are many types of allergies. Some only trigger during a specific season; others can trigger every time you come in contact with the same substance.
It’s important to know what substances you and your children are sensitive to in order to minimize the allergic reactions you experience. So let’s take a look at the six most common types of allergies.
Types of Allergies & Their Symptoms
|Skin Allergy||Rash, hives, itchy bumps, contact dermatitis|| Calamine lotion |
Run under cold water
Speak to your doctor
|Respiratory Allergy||Running nose, coughing, nasal block, sneezing|| Use a face mask |
Use air filters
Stay indoors during pollen season
|Food Allergy||Rash, vomiting, stomach pain||Remove the food allergen from your diet|
|Eye Allergy||Tears, itchiness, swelling|| Eye drops |
Run under clean water
Talk to your doctor
|Drug Allergy||Rash, shortness of breath, anaphylaxis|| Avoid drug trigger |
Corticosteroids under hospital supervision
Talk to your doctor
|Environmental Allergy||Sneezing, coughing, teary eyes, shortness of breath|| Antihistamines |
Use a face mask
Talk to your doctor
1. Skin Allergies
Skin allergies frequently present among people with sensitive skin or pre-existing conditions like eczema.
A skin allergy can be triggered by any number of substances. The most common causes of skin allergies are chemicals in skincare products and cosmetics.
However, there are other plants and substances that can also cause skin allergies and irritations, including:
Symptoms to skin allergies are usually topical. They show up on the surface of the skin and can often be treated with topical creams and lotions.
Common symptoms include rashes, hives, itchy bumps, inflammation and dry patches. Conditions associated with skin allergies also include the following.
Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
Eczema is the formation of itchy, dry, red skin due to skin exposure to allergens or allergies to certain foods.
Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction that occurs when your skin touches a particular irritant. You may experience rashes, blisters, itching, skin cracking, scaling or a burning sensation soon after touching something.
Hives are pale, itchy bumps that appear raised on the surface of your skin. They can occur due to food intolerances, or reactions to venom from insect bites and medication.
Angioedema is the swelling and inflammation of the deeper layers of your skin. Typically, this allergic reaction presents when you have ingested an allergen from a food source, a drug or an insect bite.
2. Respiratory Allergies
Airborne allergens are the biggest trigger of respiratory allergies. Indoor and outdoor pollutants that are breathed in can trigger immediate allergies, some more severe than others.
These particles are usually too small for the human eye to see. When breathed in, they inflame the nasal passages and can cause swelling around the delicate tissue of the eyes. This is why most people associate symptoms like watery eyes, congestion, runny nose and sneezing with allergies.
The most common airborne allergens include:
Common respiratory allergies are listed below.
Seasonal allergies are very common. Summer allergies tend to stem from pollen, grasses and weeds. Fall allergies are usually related to ragweed, mold and dust mites, whereas, in winter, indoor allergens may be the culprit.
Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
Hay fever is an immune disorder that creates allergic responses to pollen, grasses and weeds. Some people experience it seasonally while others may experience it perennially (year round).
Over 25 million Americans experience allergies to pollen from many different types of plants including trees, grasses and weeds.
Mold allergies develop in people who are frequently exposed to excessive mold. For most people, infrequent exposure presents no problems. However, if you live in a wet or humid climate, mold may be one of the biggest indoor air pollutants affecting your health.
Dust mites can sure stir up a whole lot of trouble! Keeping your pillows, bedding and carpets clean can go a long way to reducing exposure to dust mites. Proper air filtration, in particular HEPA filtration, can also help.
Around 10% of Americans experience allergies to animals, including from pets. Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. Animal allergies usually stem from coming into contact with pet dander, saliva or urine.
3. Food Allergies
Food allergies occur when your immune system views particular types of food as intruders.
There are various ways in which food allergies can present, making them difficult to self-diagnose. Here are some of the common food allergy symptoms you may experience.
|Body Part||Symptoms of Food Allergies|
|Gastrointestinal Tract||Cramps, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting|
|Skin||Eczema, rash, hives, clamminess|
|Cardiovascular System||Weak pulse, dizziness, feeling faint|
|Respiratory Tract||Cough, shortness of breath|
|Face and Throat||Swelling of lips, eyes and throat|
The most common food items that can cause allergies include:
Reactions to food vary from mild reactions (minor intolerance) to severe allergic reactions (like anaphylaxis). There are three types of food allergies, with information on each below.
IgE Mediated Food Allergy
IgE mediated allergies occur when IgE antibodies in the immune system are responsible for the allergic reaction to a food substance. Signs and symptoms of such an allergy usually occur within a few minutes and can include hives, vomiting, redness of the skin and anaphylaxis.
Non-IgE Mediated Food Allergy
Non-IgE mediated allergies are caused by other components of the immune system and do not involve IgE antibodies. These types of allergies take longer to appear and usually relate to the irritation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Food intolerances are different from food allergies. True food allergies cause an immune system response, whereas food intolerance is signaled by less severe symptoms and is often limited to digestive problems such as bloating or diarrhea.
4. Eye Allergies
Eye allergies are also known as allergic conjunctivitis. They occur when your eyes come into contact with a substance that causes an adverse immune response.
The most common substances to cause eye allergies are airborne particles like pollen, smoke or dust. Household chemicals, skincare products and cosmetics can also trigger eye allergies.
The symptoms can vary from one person to another, however they usually include:
It is possible only one eye may be affected. Eye allergies are also accompanied by other allergy symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose and congestion.
5. Drug Allergies
Compared to the types of allergies we’ve discussed so far, true drug allergies occur only in a small number of people. Many reactions to drugs aren’t classed as true allergies. Rather, they are side effects of the medicine being administered.
For a response to a drug to be considered an allergy, a reaction from the immune system is required. As with most allergies, the immune system may recognize some ingredients in drugs as invaders into the body.
The most common drug allergies include:
Penicillin has been used since the 1940s to treat a number of bacterial infections. If you are allergic to penicillin, it means your immune system has an abnormal reaction to the drug and fights against it. Common symptoms include hives, itching and rashes.
Aspirin has been used as an effective anti-inflammatory drug for a while now. However, some people experience allergies to aspirin. Aspirin allergy has been linked to underlying skin or airway diseases, although it is still possible for people without these diseases to experience it.
6. Environmental Allergies
A number of allergies are triggered due to environmental factors. In most cases, environmental allergies are linked to respiratory allergies since airborne allergens are the most easily transmissible in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Environmental allergies tend to cause symptoms such as:
Asthma can also be triggered by environmental allergens.
Indoor Environmental Allergies
Dust, pet dander and mold are the typical allergens affecting your indoor air quality, leading to allergic reactions within your home. Chemical agents used in household cleaning products and fragrances are also at the top of the list.
Outdoor Environmental Allergies
Pollen is the biggest contributor to outdoor environmental allergies. However, you may also react to mold, various grasses and plants. For some people, smoke and chemicals found in polluted air may also lead to breathing allergies or asthma.
The best way to avoid allergic responses is to avoid the types of allergens your immune system responds to. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done.
Allergy medications like nasal sprays and antihistamines can help ease your symptoms. In any case, your best line of defense is knowledge.
Chat to your doctor about getting tested for allergies to find out exactly what substances your immune system reacts to.