About Allergies

An allergen is something that causes allergy signs, or an allergic reaction. Many of the same asthma triggers also cause allergic reactions in people who don't have asthma. There are many common allergens. Some are those listed here. It's very important to talk to your doctor if you have had a reaction to any of these:

[Photo: Cat] Household triggers: pets (most often animal skin flakes or "dander"), smoke, mold, dust and dust mites.

Foods: milk and dairy products, citrus fruit like oranges and lemons, artificial colors and favors, nuts, and shellfsh, like shrimp or clams.

Medicines: penicillin, some heart medicines, and some anti-seizure medicines.

Insect stings and bites: most are caused by yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants. In some people, reactions to stings become more serious as years go by. Eventually, it may take only one sting to kill. Talk to your doctor if you have had a serious reaction to a sting. Bed Bugs are a growing problem in homes too. Visit EPA's Bed Bug resource page to learn how to deal with these pests!

Contact allergens: cause reactions when things like plants, cosmetics, jewelry, or latex (a type of rubber) touch the skin. Rashes are common reactions to these allergens.

What can you do?

  • Know your allergies, and know what to avoid. Not everyone is allergic to the same things!
  • Contact your doctor about any unusual reactions to food, plants, medicines, or other items.
  • Avoid contact with things you know trigger allergies. Avoid being outside or having the windows open when pollen counts are high. Read food labels carefully to avoid ingredients that cause reactions. Choose medicines and home-care products carefully. Remove carpet or vacuum often to avoid animal dander.
  • Keep a clean home. Control pests such as mice and cockroaches. Vacuum floors and upholstery often and consider removing carpet. Avoid having mold, cigarette smoke, pesticides, and chemicals inside the house. Keep pets out of the bedrooms of family members who are allergic to them.

In the event of a severe allergic reaction, seek emergency medical attention immediately.