According to American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. An estimated 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children suffer from allergies, and new cases are diagnosed each day.
While the majority of allergies are relatively easy to manage, many people have extreme cases of allergies that are potentially life-threatening. A nasal allergy is one of the most common allergy types, but there are several other types.
Whether you suspect that you may have allergies or you just want to gain a better understanding of all types of allergies, we will tell you everything you need to know about the most commonly diagnosed allergies and their symptoms.
What Are Allergies?
Before we start discussing all the different allergy types, it’s important to explain a few basics of allergies. If you don’t have an allergy, you probably know at least one person who cannot eat peanuts or gets itchy eyes and starts to sneeze when in contact with a cat.
So, what exactly is an allergy? An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system decides that a foreign substance (also known as an allergen) is a threat to the body. Some describe it as your immune system being overprotective, even if the allergen is a “false alarm.”
If the immune system detects the same allergen again, and it still sees it as a threat, it will release a chemical (called histamine) into your body, and the result is inflammation in a variety of places. Some people have slight itching on their skin while others suffer from severe swelling in their airways.
An allergy is often described as being hypersensitive to something. Hypersensitivity levels vary in every individual and even though there are millions of people with allergies, there are millions without.
Many allergies are diagnosed during childhood, particularly food allergies, but many allergy types may not reveal symptoms until adulthood. It’s not uncommon for adults to develop allergies, such as a pollen allergy, after decades of no issues.
There are specific risk factors, such as genetics, that can increase your likelihood of having an allergy, but anyone of any age can suddenly experience a variety of allergy symptoms.
Common Allergy Types
Every day, some people struggle with allergy symptoms and are still waiting to find the exact source of their symptoms. While anything, in theory, might be the cause of an allergic reaction, we will discuss some of the most common allergy types.
Since recognizing the symptoms of various allergies can help you get an accurate diagnosis more quickly, we will share some of the most common symptoms associated with each allergy type. Keep in mind that depending on one’s hypersensitivity, the symptoms may vary.
An estimated 15 million adults and children, in the U.S., have a food allergy. The most common food allergens are milk, egg, peanut and tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Food intolerance and food allergies are not the same but may share some of the same symptoms.
If you suspect that you have an allergy or intolerance to food, you should make an appointment with your doctor so you can accurately identify the issue and ensure it’s not a different health issue.
A family history of allergies, as well as other allergies like hay fever, can increase the risk of developing a food allergy. While many food allergies occur during childhood, it’s not uncommon for an adult to develop one.
Food Allergy Symptoms
Like all allergies, the symptoms related to a food allergy may be mild to severe. We’ll start with mild to moderate food allergy symptoms.
- Hives or an eczema flare-up
- Redness around the mouth or eyes
- An itchy sensation in your mouth or ear canal
- Peculiar taste in the mouth
- Digestive issues such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
- Cold symptoms, such as sneezing or a runny nose
Severe symptoms may include swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat with the inability to get a full breath or swallow. You may also have shortness of breath and start to turn blue.
If you notice a drop in your blood pressure, have chest pain, feel “off” or lose consciousness, these could all indicate a severe reaction to any food you consumed.
If you suffer from a seasonal allergy, it means that you could be allergic to a variety of pollen, such as trees or ragweed. Spring seasonal allergies typically begin in February and may last until early summer. Other seasonal allergies may start later in the spring and continue until the first frost.
Depending on where you live and what the weather is like, your allergy symptoms may be worse during one year than other years.
Seasonal Allergies Symptoms
Many people with seasonal allergies mistake their symptoms for a cold. While seasonal allergy symptoms are similar to symptoms of a cold, a pollen allergy should not result in a fever or leave you having aches and pains.
While there’s a good possibility that you could have seasonal allergies while suffering from a cold, your allergies are likely to stick around for weeks while a cold usually runs its course within two weeks.
Gluten-free products are widely available due to an increase of people who think they have a gluten allergy. While some adults and children are unable to eat gluten, many suffer from a gluten-intolerance (which has different symptoms).
Individuals with a “true” allergy to gluten typically have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten (which is found in wheat, barley, and rye) will trigger your immune system to kill villi. Villi are part of your small intestine and responsible for absorbing nutrients.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease (Gluten Allergy)
Children and adults typically experience different symptoms if they have a true allergy to gluten. A gluten allergy for children can affect their growth due to inability to absorb vital nutrients. Some common symptoms for children include bloating and gas, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, and nausea or vomiting.
Adults with an allergy to gluten may experience fatigue, mood disorders, headaches, joint pain, frequent canker sores, infertility, and tingling in the hands or feet.
Like all allergy types, symptoms associated with a gluten allergy may indicate other health issues, so it’s always important to meet with your doctor to have your symptoms correctly diagnosed.
Even if you keep your home spotless, mold spores could be growing in your house. There are an estimated 1,000 species of mold in the U.S., and if you’re allergic to mold, you could be hypersensitive to any number of mold spores.
While mold allergies are not as prevalent as food allergies, it’s an allergy that can worsen if not properly diagnosed. If you have cold-like symptoms such as nasal congestion, coughing, or an itchy throat, you may have a mold allergy.
Since mold allergy symptoms mimic a cold, you should visit your doctor if the symptoms stick around for more than a few weeks, get worse, or seem to only flare up in certain places (such as home or at work).
Other Allergy Types
Other common allergies include being hypersensitive to pet dander, dust, latex, insect bites, and even cockroaches.
The symptoms of these types of allergies vary from minor skin irritation to a serious life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. If you experience a severe symptom, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. Even if you’re unsure as to what is causing your allergic reaction, you should never ignore the symptoms.
What You Can Expect From Your At An Allergy Appointment
Many people who suspect that they have a skin or seasonal allergy might decide to treat the symptoms with an OTC cream or medication. While some OTC products can help reduce some of the itching, sneezing, and congestion, there are no cures for allergies.
If your symptoms worsen or if you see little relief, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor, who may have you see an allergist. Depending on the symptoms and the allergy you may have, your doctor may simply suggest an elimination test (such as avoiding certain foods).
Your doctor may also order a blood, skin, or patch test to determine what types of allergens trigger your symptoms. Once they properly identify the allergen(s), you might take medication or allergy shots.
Living With Allergies
Although an allergy diagnosis may feel overwhelming and a bit limiting, you can still enjoy many of the same activities you enjoyed before your diagnosis. Even if it means avoiding the outdoors when the pollen count is high or saying “no” to your favorite food, learning how to manage your symptoms and avoid allergen triggers can make your day-to-day activities more comfortable and enjoyable.