What are the most common allergy symptoms?

Allergies develop when a person’s immune system overreacts to substances that are usually harmless. It can be a chronic condition that is highly prevalent and effect 40% of Canadian1 but is often underestimated, under-diagnosed, and under-treated, thereby impacting one’s quality of life at work, school, play and pleasure. Signs that you may have allergies are:

Hives + Rashes

Urticaria, commonly known as hives, is a condition that affects about 20 percent of the population at some time. If you have ever suffered with skin that erupts into red welts, often with severe itching, you know how distressing this type of condition can be. And how much it can affect your life.

Coughing + Sneezing

Rhinitis, often referred to as hay fever, is an inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the nose. It is one of the most common chronic health conditions affecting the North American population, with 10 to 20% of Canadians being affected.

Constant Itching

The most common of the inflammatory dermatoses, comprising a group of skin disorders that exhibit a common pattern of histological and clinical findings, which vary depending on the stage of the disease. The terms eczema and dermatitis are often used interchangeably.

Red + Watery Eyes

There are many different reasons for Red Eye and it is important to have an accurate diagnosis of this condition as the treatments will vary accordingly such as Allergic Conjunctivitis.

How are allergies diagnosed and tested?

It is important to know which allergens cause you to have symptoms. Your doctor will:

  • review your health history and your family’s health history
  • ask about the frequency and severity of your symptoms
  • ask what activities might expose you to allergens
  • ask about your home and work environments
  • perform a physical exam of your eyes, ears, nose and lungs


Based upon the findings, the allergist can determine if allergy testing is needed. Allergy testing may include skin prick testing and blood tests. You can then work with your allergist to understand the results and develop a treatment plan.

What allergy medications and treatments are available?

Medications used to treat allergies include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal corticosteroid sprays
  • Leukotriene modifiers
  • Mast cell stabilizers
  • Anticholinergics


Several treatment options are currently available for allergies including:

  • avoidance of allergens
  • medication
  • Topical Creams (Cream, Lotion, Ointment)
  • Eyedrops
  • allergen immunotherapy
  • nasal sprays and washes

Allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, helps build your tolerance to allergens, reducing or eliminating symptoms. The patient receives gradual increasing amount of the allergen on a regular schedule, until a maintenance level is reached. Tolerance for the allergen typically continues after immunotherapy ends

However the long-term success rate varies from person to person. Allergy shots and under-the-tongue tablets are types of immunotherapy that your allergist may recommend for treatment of your allergies. Visit your allergist to determine the best treatment option for you.

What are the most common allergies?

Many different substances trigger allergic symptoms. Common allergens include:


Food allergies Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions in the United States. These eight foods are known as the “top 8” food allergies:

  • cow’s milk
  • hen’s eggs
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • wheat
  • soy
  • fish
  • shellfish


Pollen allergy is an allergy to pollen, tiny particles released by trees, grasses and weeds. Pollen grains float through the air in spring, summer and fall – or year-round in areas with mild winters.

Symptoms of pollen allergies may be:

  • sneezing spells
  • watery or itchy eyes
  • congestion
  • itchy throat


Pollen allergies may occur throughout the year. Tree pollens are common in late winter and early spring, followed by grasses in late spring and summer.

There are ways to limit exposure to pollen allergens and minimize symptoms. However, pollen allergies may require medications to control symptoms


Mold Allergy

Molds are microscopic organisms called fungi, found virtually everywhere, indoors and out. Molds reproduce through spores spread by water, insects or air, so tiny and lightweight they can float through the air like pollen. These spores can be inhaled and cause allergic symptoms.

These symptoms include:

  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Sore Throat
  • Sneezing
  • Watery or burning eyes
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritation of the nose, throat, or skin


Mold spores are especially dangerous for people with asthma and may trigger asthma attacks, but the exact reason is not known. Testing for mold allergy is done by an allergist and may include both skin prick and blood tests. Mold hides both indoors and outdoors, so limiting exposure is key.


Treatment for mold allergies includes:

  • Nasal corticosteroids
  • Antihistamine
  • Montelukast


Pet Allergy

Allergic reactions to cats, dogs and other furry animals are caused by proteins found in flecks of the pets’ skin, called dander, as well as in their saliva and urine. You are really not allergic to the fur of your pet. You are allergic to pet dander. Pet allergens can cause reactions when they’re inhaled, get in the eyes, or come in contact with skin. Reactions may happen within minutes but may be delayed for hours. The best way to eliminate a pet allergy is to remove the pet from the home. However, the pet dander can remain in the home for weeks to months.


Dust Allergy

Dust mites are tiny insects that live in mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture. They look for moisture along with their favorite food, tiny bits of shed human skin. Allergens from dust mite droppings and dead bodies collect in bedding, furnishings and dust, then irritate airways and eyes on contact.Symptoms of dust mite allergy include:

  • itchy eyes,
  • scratchy throats,
  • runny nose and
  • other allergy symptoms
  • Dust mites are also a potent trigger of asthma.

There are changes you can make to your home environment to reduce dust mites. Dust mite allergies can be treated with over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines, or nasal sprays.


Insect Venom allergy

For most people, insect stings are a short-term annoyance. Others allergic to the venom in a stinging insect can cause an allergic reaction. The most common insects to cause an allergic reaction are:

  • Yellow jackets
  • Hornets
  • Paper wasps
  • Bees


Symptoms of an insect venom allergy can range from a mild local reaction to a severe systemic reaction known as anaphylaxis. The danger is that an allergic reaction can happen to anyone, even people with no other allergies and people who have been stung before with no problems. Localized reactions may be managed at home with cold compresses, antihistamines, or itching creams. Severe, life threatening symptoms are:

  • Hives or generalized itching other than at the site of the sting
  • Swelling of the throat or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache
  • Stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea

If you develop these symptoms, the only treatment is an injection of epinephrine, which should be given first and fast. If you need an injection of epinephrine, you should also follow-up with emergency care. If you have a known insect allergy you should always carry an epinephrine auto injector.


Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, occur when the protective outer covering of the eye and eyelid, called the conjunctiva, becomes swollen and inflamed due to allergens or irritants.

Common symptoms include:

  • red, irritated, teary and itchy eyes
  • burning
  • eyelid swelling
  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light

Environmental triggers and irritants cause eye allergies. Environmental triggers include:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander

Irritants include:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cosmetics
  • Perfume
  • Contact lenses
  • Contact lens solution

The most effective treatment for eye allergies is avoiding environmental triggers and irritants.


Drug allergies may cause hives, cause light-headedness, nausea, difficulty breathing or stomach cramps, or make your throat or mouth swelling. Symptoms can begin within moments of ingesting a medication or up to several hours later. Medications that most often cause a reaction include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen
  • Drugs used in anesthesia
  • Insulin (rarely)
  • Chemotherapy drugs


If you develop flushing or hives within a few hours of taking a medication, call a board-certified allergist. If symptoms are severe and involve multiple body organs – a skin rash, respiratory problems and/or digestive issues – it could be anaphylaxis. Call 911 and go to the emergency department immediately. Not all reactions are a drug allergy, so it is important to get tested.


Latex allergy is an allergic reaction to the proteins present in the milky sap of the Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree. Latex allergy generally develops after repeated exposure to medical and consumer products containing natural rubber latex. Allergy to latex poses a serious health risk to:

  • healthcare workers
  • spina bifida patients
  • workers with occupational exposure
  • patients with multiple surgeries
  • the general population

Symptoms of latex allergy may be mild at first, progressing to more serious types of symptoms. Symptoms of latex allergy include:

  • skin redness
  • urticaria (hives)
  • itching
  • nasal drainage
  • sneezing
  • itchy eyes
  • throat irritation
  • asthma

A latex allergy reaction can also result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.