Allergies Pictures Slideshow: 10 Common Allergy Triggers
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Uncover Your Allergy Triggers
Nearly 20% of Americans have allergies. Allergies are an abnormal response of your immune system. Your body's defenses react to a usually harmless substance, such as pollen, animal dander, or food. Almost anything can trigger an allergic reaction, which can range from mild and annoying to sudden and life-threatening. Here are 10 of the most common triggers.
Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds can trigger hay fever or seasonal allergies. You might have symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy, watery eyes. Treatments include over-the-counter products, prescription drugs, and allergy shots. Prevent symptoms by staying inside on windy days when pollen counts are high, closing windows, and running the air conditioning.
This is a magnified view of sunflower pollen.
Proteins secreted by oil glands in an animal's skin and present in their saliva can cause allergic reactions for some people. The allergy can take two or more years to develop and symptoms may not go away until months after being away from the animal. If your pet is causing allergies, make your bedroom a pet-free zone, avoid carpets, and wash him regularly. A HEPA filter and frequent vacuuming may also help. Allergy shots may be beneficial.
Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in house dust. They thrive in high humidity and feed on the dead skin cells of people and pets, as well as on pollen, bacteria, and fungi. Help prevent dust mite allergies by covering mattresses, pillows, and box springs, using hypoallergenic pillows, washing sheets weekly in hot water, and keeping the house free of dust collecting-items such as stuffed animals, curtains, and carpet.
People who are allergic to stings can have a severe or even life-threatening reaction. Symptoms include extensive swelling and redness from the sting or bite that may last a week or more, nausea, fatigue, and low-grade fever. In rare cases when insect bites cause a severe reaction (anaphylaxis), symptoms may include difficulty breathing, swelling around the face, throat, or mouth, racing pulse, an itchy rash or hives, dizziness, or a sharp drop in blood pressure. If you're severely allergic, you should get epinephrine immediately after a sting. Allergy shots are recommended to prevent anaphylaxis for some stings.
Molds make allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mold (magnified here) or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in some people. There are many types of mold. They all need moisture to grow. They can be found in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms, as well as in grass or mulch. Avoid activities that trigger symptoms, such as raking leaves. Ventilate moist areas in your home.
Milk, shellfish, eggs, and nuts are among the most common foods that cause allergies. An allergic reaction usually happens within minutes of eating the offending food. Symptoms, which can include breathing problems, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling around the mouth, can be severe. Avoid all foods that you are allergic to. If you're exposed to them, you may need an epinephrine injection.
Latex in gloves, condoms, and some medical devices can trigger a latex allergy. Symptoms include skin rash, eye irritation, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, and skin or nose itching. Allergic reactions can range from skin redness and itching to anaphylaxis, a serious reaction which can cause difficulty breathing, and hives. If you're allergic, wear a MedicAlert bracelet and carry an epinephrine kit.
Symptoms of allergies to medications, such as penicillin or aspirin, can range from mild to life-threatening and can include hives, itchy eyes, congestion, and swelling in the face, mouth and throat. It's best to avoid the drug altogether. But if you're exposed, your doctor may recommend treating mild symptoms with antihistamines or steroids. For severe allergy symptoms, you may need epinephrine.
Fragrances found in products like perfumes, scented candles, laundry detergent, and cosmetics can cause mild to severe health problems. For most people, symptoms ease up once the scent is gone. For some, repeated exposures cause more symptoms that happen more often and last longer. There’s some question whether fragrance reactions are a true allergy or simply your body's response to an irritant.
Ick! Not only are cockroaches creepy, but a protein in their droppings can be a troublesome allergen. It can be difficult to get rid of cockroaches from your home, especially in a warm climate, or if you live in an apartment building where bugs can pass back and forth between neighbors. Treat for roaches by using pesticides, keeping a clean kitchen, and repairing cracks and holes in floors, walls, and windows to stop them from entering your home.
(1) Altrendo images
(2) Susumu Nishinaga / Photo Researchers, Inc.
(3) Chris Amaral / Digital Vision
(4) David Scharf / Science Faction
(5) Charles Krebs / Science Faction
(6) Dennis Kunkel Microscopy
(7) Food Image Source / StockFood Creative
(8) PhotoAlto / Ale Ventura
(9) M Stock - The Stock Connection / Science Faction
Aerias Air Quality Sciences IAQ Resource Center.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology web site.
American Academy of Dermatology web site.
American Academy of Family Physicians web site.
American Academy of Ophthalmology web site.
American Academy of Pediatrics web site.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America web site.
Children's Hospital Boston.
Halken, S., Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, January 2003.
Johns Hopkins web site.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease web site.
The Food Allergy Initiative.
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.