What are the allergy symptoms?

The most common symptoms of allergic reaction are:

  • sneezing, runny, itchy or blocked nose (allergic rhinitis)
  • watering, red, itchy eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • hives – red rash, often raised and itchy
  • red, cracked and dry skin
  • swollen tongue, lips, eyes or face
  • chest tightness
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing and cough
  • nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea or vomiting
  • anaphylaxis (the most severe allergic reaction)
Common allergens

The most common reaction-triggering substances (allergens) are:

  • tree and grass pollen
  • dust mites (protein in their droppings)
  • mould
  • furry or hairy animals (animal dander)
  • insects’ stings or bites
  • food (such as peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, shellfish, fish, celery, gluten, lupin, mustard, sesame seeds, soya, sulphur dioxide and/or sulphites)
  • medication
  • latex
  • household chemicals

However, allergic reactions can occur to almost anything.  Examples of known cases include: fruits, vegetables including garlic, oats, rice, bamboo, semen, metal (jewellery, mobile phone, tablets, buttons), cold, sunlight, own sweat, red meat, chicken, essential oils, alcohol, and even water.

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction, normally to food proteins, medication or latex which requires immediate treatment. Any of the symptoms listed below can be signs of anaphylaxis:

  • swelling of the throat, tongue and/or mouth
  • difficulties with breathing, swallowing and speaking
  • lightheadedness and/or confusion
  • blue skin or lips
  • losing consciousness, collapsing
  • hoarse voice
  • persistent cough, severe asthma attack, wheezing
  • abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
What is the difference between food intolerance and food allergy?

A food intolerance may cause a similar reaction to a food allergy, such as abdominal cramping, nausea or vomiting. The main difference is that it may be possible to ingest small amounts of the trigger foods without any ill effect; whereas in the case of a true allergy, ingestion of even the smallest amount of allergenic foods will trigger a reaction.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Asthma is a long-term inflammatory lung condition.  The most common symptoms of asthma include:

  • persistent cough, often worse at night
  • breathlessness
  • tightness in the chest (a sensation of having a tight band around the chest, or a heavy weight pressing on it)
  • wheezing (a whistling noise coming from the airways)

Not every asthma sufferer will experience all these symptoms, whereas some will.  Some sufferers may only experience them from time to time, especially in response to triggers such as pollen, air pollution, exercise or cold/flu viruses.

The rapid worsening of symptoms can indicate an asthma attack, a potentially life-threatening occurrence.  During an attack sufferers may also experience:

  • being too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • rapid or shallow breathing
  • dizziness, drowsiness
  • lethargy and confusion
  • fainting
  • having blue lips or fingers

Asthma attacks can have a rapid onset (occur suddenly), or symptoms can gradually worsen over a period of a few days. They can be potentially life-threatening as the airways become constricted (narrow), their inner lining becomes inflamed,  causing even more narrowing; and mucus is secreted into the airways, making it even more difficult for oxygen to pass into the lungs, and as a result, to the rest of the body. Asthma attacks require immediate medical attention.

What are typical asthma triggers?

Anything that inflames or irritates the airways can trigger asthma symptoms. This could be breathing more quickly after exercise or stress; or breathing the cold, damp air.

The most common triggers are:

  • catching a cold or the flu
  • allergies to pollen, dust mites or animal dander
  • dust
  • air pollution
  • tobacco smoke
  • spray cleaners and air fresheners
  • reactions to a food allergen such as peanuts
  • exercise
  • emotional stress
  • breathing in cold, damp air
  • rapid change in temperature, such as going from an extremely warm environment to an extremely cold one (e.g. from a heated classroom to a cold, frosty playground).
What are the symptoms of eczema?

Eczema (dermatitis) can have a different appearance from person to person, but the most common symptoms are:

  • sensitive and dry skin, which may become red or purple (darker skin tones) and inflamed
  • bad itching
  • areas of darker patches
  • rough or scaly patches
  • crusting
  • oozing
  • swelling
  • blistering
What are the triggers of eczema?

Eczema can be triggered by many things.  The most common include:

  • irritants such as detergents, soaps, shampoo, bubble bath, washing up liquid, cleaning products
  • environmental factors – cold, dry weather, damp, central heating,  dust mites, pollen, animal dander, mould
  • food allergies (such as peanuts, dairy, soya, eggs, wheat)
  • some fabrics (for example wool or synthetic ones)
  • hormonal changes
  • skin infection
  • stress
  • sweat
  • changes in temperature