Allergy Symptoms: What You Need to Know

Apr 02, 2024Contributing Editor

Have you noticed a sudden increase in how often you sneeze? Or maybe you’ve noticed that your eyes are itchy, you have unexplainable patches of irritated skin, or have trouble breathing? These might all be allergy symptoms. 

While spring is a time of new life and joy, it is also the dreaded beginning of allergy season. Keep reading to find out more about what you need to know to feel healthy and strong. 


What is an Allergy?

An allergy is a condition in which your immune system reacts to a substance that is harmless to most people. These substances are called allergens. When you come into contact with an allergen, your immune system overreacts and produces antibodies that attack the allergen. This reaction can cause a variety of symptoms, but allergy symptoms extend way beyond these. The inflammatory reaction your body has can affect your body tissue, organs, skin, lungs, and even gastrointestinal tract. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny and congested nose/sinuses
  • Respiratory discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Skin reactions (i.e. rashes, swelling)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Intestinal gas or pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Mood swings

Oftentimes, people don’t realize that they have allergies and mistake these symptoms for other health conditions. 


What Causes Allergies?

Allergies are triggered by an overreaction of your immune system to a harmless substance called an allergen. It's important to understand that these substances pose no threat to most people, but in individuals with allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies them as invaders and launches an attack. Here's a breakdown of the chain of events:

  1. Sensitization: Upon first exposure to an allergen, your immune system produces IgE antibodies specific to that allergen. These antibodies attach to mast cells, which are white blood cells found in tissues like the skin, lungs, and nose.
  2. 2. Subsequent exposure: When you're exposed to the same allergen again, the IgE antibodies on the mast cells recognize it and trigger the release of chemicals like histamine.
  3. 3. Histamine release: Histamine is a powerful chemical that causes the allergy symptoms we experience. It dilates blood vessels, increases mucus production, and triggers itching, swelling, and other inflammatory responses.
  4. 4. Symptoms: Depending on the allergen and the location of exposure, these responses can manifest as various symptoms like the ones mentioned at the outset of the article. 


How Can I Find Out If I Have Allergies?

There are several ways you can find out if you have allergies, and the best approach depends on your symptoms and any existing risk factors:

1. Talk to your doctor:

  • This is the most recommended first step. Your doctor will review your medical history, symptoms, and potential triggers. They can also perform a physical exam to look for signs of allergic reactions.
  • Based on your situation, your doctor may recommend specific allergy tests to pinpoint the culprit.


2. Allergy skin prick tests:

  • These are relatively quick and painless tests where small amounts of potential allergens (like pollen, dust mites, or food extracts) are injected just under the skin.
  • After 15-20 minutes, your doctor will observe the injection sites for any swelling or redness, which indicates a reaction.


3. Allergy blood tests:

  • These tests measure the level of specific IgE antibodies in your blood. Elevated levels of IgE to certain allergens can suggest an allergy.
  • This option is handy if you have skin conditions like eczema that could interfere with skin prick tests, or if you're taking medications that could affect the test results.
  • These methods are primarily used for diagnosing food allergies.
  • The elimination diet involves removing suspected allergens from your diet for a set period, then gradually reintroducing them while monitoring for symptoms.
  • Food challenge tests involve controlled reintroduction of suspected allergens under medical supervision to observe any immediate reactions.


5. Patch tests:

  • These tests are used to diagnose contact allergies, such as those caused by metals, fragrances, or certain fabrics.
  • Small patches containing potential allergens are applied to your skin for 48-72 hours, and your doctor checks for any allergic reactions at the patch sites.


Allergy Management Tips

Here are some tips for managing allergies:

  1. Identify and avoid triggers. The first step to managing allergies is to figure out what you're allergic to. Once you know your triggers, you can start to avoid them. Common allergy triggers include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold, and certain foods.
  2. Use medication as prescribed. If you have allergies, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you manage your symptoms. There are many different types of allergy medications available, so it's important to talk to your doctor about which one is right for you.
  3. Wash clothes and bedding regularly. Dust mites are a common trigger for allergies, so it's important to wash your clothes and bedding in hot water (at least 130°F) once a week. You should also vacuum your mattress and box spring regularly.
  4. Air out your home. Open your windows and doors for at least 30 minutes each day to let fresh air in and circulate. This will help to remove allergens from your home.
  5. Use a humidifier. A humidifier can add moisture to the air, which can help to loosen mucus and relieve congestion. However, it's important to keep your humidifier clean to prevent mold growth.
  6. Get allergy shots. Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, can help to reduce your sensitivity to allergens over time. This is a long-term treatment, but it can be very effective for people with severe allergies.
  7. Use a nasal saline spray. A nasal saline spray can help to flush out allergens and mucus from your nasal passages. This can be especially helpful if you have a stuffy nose or sinus congestion.
  8. Avoid irritants. Some things, such as smoke, strong odors, and pollution, can irritate your airways and make your allergies worse. Try to avoid these irritants as much as possible.
  9. Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet can help boost your immune system and make you less likely to get allergies. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  10. Exercise regularly. Exercise can also help to boost your immune system and make you less likely to get allergies. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

By following these tips, you can help to manage your allergies and live a more comfortable life.



Living with allergies doesn't have to be a constant struggle. By understanding the causes and symptoms, identifying your triggers, and implementing management strategies, you can take control of your health and enjoy a life free from discomfort. Remember, early diagnosis and proper treatment are key, so don't hesitate to consult your doctor if you suspect you have allergies. With knowledge and proactive action, you can embrace the joys of spring and every season ahead, breathing easy and feeling your best.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

1. What are the most common allergens that trigger allergic reactions?

  • Allergies can be triggered by various substances, but some common culprits include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mold spores, certain foods like nuts and shellfish, and insect stings.


2. How can I differentiate between allergy symptoms and those of a cold or flu?

  • Allergy symptoms often include sneezing, itching, and watery eyes, which are less common in cold or flu. Additionally, allergies lack the fever and body aches commonly associated with viral infections.


3. Are there effective natural remedies for managing allergy symptoms?

  • Yes, several natural remedies may help alleviate allergy symptoms, including local honey, saline nasal rinses, and herbal supplements. However, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before trying any alternative treatments.


4. Can allergies develop at any age, or are they more likely to occur in childhood?

  • Allergies can develop at any age. While some individuals may experience allergies in childhood, others may develop them later in life. Environmental factors, genetics, and lifestyle can all contribute to the onset of allergies.


5. What role does genetics play in the likelihood of developing allergies?

  • Genetics can influence the likelihood of developing allergies. If both parents have allergies, there's an increased chance that their children will also have allergies. However, specific allergic triggers can vary among family members.

Other Resources

For those who are curious, want to expand their knowledge, or just like keeping informed, here are some links to sites that you might like. These online resources come from institutions that hold a sterling reputation for their expertise and stringent standards for relevant information.

Mayo Clinic - Allergies Overview

Mayo Clinic is a renowned medical institution globally recognized for its authoritative and reliable health information.


AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

The AAAAI is a professional organization dedicated to the advancement of the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma, and immunology.


Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI)

CSACI is a professional organization committed to advancing the knowledge and practice of allergy and clinical immunology in Canada.

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