Common Allergies

The Most Common Causes of Allergies

Allergies are quite common in America: Researchers estimate that over 50 million people suffer from nasal allergies, not to mention all the other types, and the numbers are increasing. Some allergy symptoms, such as the sniffling and sneezing that come with seasonal and pet hair allergies, are annoying. However, certain food allergies, such as those to peanuts and shellfish, can be lethal. They’re the sixth most common cause of illness in the US, and some of the biggest causes are listed below.

Pollinators

Trees and other plants start pollinating in the beginning of spring, and oaks are the most common culprit. Birches, sycamores, poplars and evergreens can all cause itchy eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing and sniffles. Millions are affected by grass pollen, which is common in the late spring to the early fall; timothy and Bermuda grass are the biggest offenders. Weed allergies are common in the fall; ragweed is at the top of the list of causes. Of all allergies, these are some of the hardest to avoid.

Mold

Mold may grow outdoors or in the home, and it is present year-round. On the inside, it lives in moist areas such as basements, bathrooms and AC or refrigerator drip pans. Outdoors, it can live in clogged drains and leaf piles. The spores can trigger watery eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing and asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.

Dust Mites

These creatures live in toys, bedding, carpets and pet fur, and almost 20 million people are allergic to the mites and their waste. Along with a runny nose and sneezing, many sufferers also exhibit asthma symptoms such as breathing difficulties and wheezing.

Peanuts

Over three million people in the US suffer from a peanut allergy, and it doesn’t take much to trigger a reaction. Allergic reactions can be quite severe; peanut allergies come with the highest rates of anaphylactic shock. Although the condition typically lasts a lifetime, research shows that 20% of kids will outgrow them. Because peanuts are in the legume family, sufferers are more likely to react to other types of legumes such as soybeans.

Shellfish

Approximately 2% of American adults are allergic to shellfish, which includes crab, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels and oysters. Shellfish such as lobster and shrimp cause the most reactions, and many who react to crab and lobster can eat scallops, clams and mussels. Unlike most other allergies, shellfish allergies typically develop late in life. Many victims go into anaphylaxis, which requires instant treatment.

Insect Bites

Stings and bites from wasps, honeybees, yellow jackets, fire ants and hornets all leave proteins in the skin, which can trigger reactions in some individuals. Although pain, itching and swelling at the site are common, some go into anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.

Treatment and Prevention

Seasonal allergies can be treated with OTC medicines such as Zyrtec, taken about a half-hour before going outside. In the home, keep doors and windows closed, and use a HEPA filter on the AC unit to remove airborne allergens. It also helps to dust, vacuum and change bed linens frequently, and to wash them in hot water. Keep mold under control by using fans and dehumidifiers to eliminate moisture, and by repairing plumbing leaks quickly.

Natural Remedies

For a natural way to fight allergies, take supplements including fish oil, quercetin and butterbur. Eating honey made from local plants and flowers may help to desensitize the body to the unique mix of pollens found in the area. According to a recent study, honey can decrease birch pollen allergies by up to 60%, and it can reduce the usage of antihistamines by 50%.

Safety for Allergy Sufferers

If someone knows their allergy triggers and they’ve suffered anaphylactic shock before, they should carry epinephrine (commonly referred to as an EpiPen). While the name brand treatment is expensive, there’s a generic version for about ⅙ the price. With the information and tips listed in this guide, readers can protect themselves from serious allergic reactions.