Allergy Triggers and Symptoms
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Allergy Triggers and Symptoms

How to recognize allergy symptoms, and what common allergens you should look out for.

Common Triggers

woman sneezing

Depending on the season and where you live, a great number of substances found indoors and outdoors can trigger an allergic reaction. It's important to identify which allergens affect you because avoiding those allergens is ultimately the best way to prevent an attack and keep symptoms at bay.

Here's a list of common allergy triggers:

Ragweed: This weed, the most common cause of hay fever, flourishes along roadsides and throughout North America east of the Rockies.

Dust mites: These microscopic, sightless creatures are natural inhabitants of indoor environments and are the most common trigger of perennial allergy and asthma symptoms, especially in humid regions where dust mites thrive.

Cockroaches: Between 17 and 41 percent of children and adults are allergic to cockroaches, primarily to their waste.

Pets: Allergic pet owners suffer from reactions to their pet's dander, skin flakes, saliva and urine. Pet hair or fur can also collect pollens, mold spores and other outdoor allergens, bringing them inside to you.

Molds: Mold and fungus spores are abundant in humid environments and grow in damp locations, such as basements and bathrooms, and in less obvious places such as upholstered furniture, rugs, books and wallpaper.

Recognizing Allergy Symptoms

The most common allergic responses are breathing problems like congestion, sneezing and wheezing, along with itchy eyes and skin irritation, redness, hives or itch. If you suffer from allergies, you may have only one of these symptoms or several.

The symptoms of allergies to airborne substances, such as ragweed and dust mites, include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or clogged nose and post-nasal drip
  • Coughing
  • Itching eyes, nose and throat
  • Dark circles under the eyes caused by altered blood flow near the sinuses
  • Children often get a crease mark on their noses from rubbing it in an upward direction
  • Watering eyes
  • Conjunctivitis, or an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelids, causing red-rimmed, swollen eyes and crusting of the eyelids.
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness from allergic asthma.
  • If you suspect you have an allergy and it bothers you to the point you'd like to seek treatment, you can see a general practitioner or an allergist. If you have cold-like symptoms that last for more than two weeks, you should seek treatment because these symptoms can lead to sinusitis, which may require more aggressive treatment.
  • From the National Women's Health Resource Center. Copyright 2003-2004 by the National Womens's Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC). All rights reserved. Reproducing this content in any form is prohibited without written permission. For more information, please contact