Many people share the same primary allergy symptoms, such as sneezing or a stuffy nose, and often the same allergens or triggers for these symptoms. While allergens and symptoms can be the same for many people, your treatment plan should be unique to you.

If you have issues with allergies or seasonal allergies due to some of the common allergens listed below, your next step should be contacting our experts to find the customized treatment plan that works best for you.

If your needs are more advanced, you’ll have direct access to medical experts from across The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, including our nationally ranked ear, nose and throat physicians.

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system reacts to an outdoor allergen, such as pollen. Seasonal allergies affect many people, especially in the spring and fall seasons when allergens are at an all time high. Symptoms of seasonal allergies may include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose with clear mucus
  • A sore throat due to postnasal drip
  • Itchy and/or watery eyes
  • An itchy throat

Pollen

Most plants pollinate in the early morning, so your allergy symptoms may be more prevalent then. Plan outdoor activities for later in the day to avoid peak pollen times. Pollen counts may also be lower during rainy days, as pollen is washed from the air. In contrast, windy days may increase your symptoms. After spending time outdoors, showering and changing clothes can help you prevent symptoms. In addition, wiping your pet with a damp cloth when they return from outside can help remove the pollen from their fur.

How to reduce your exposure to pollen

A few simple practices can help you reduce your daily exposure to pollen and help minimize pollen-induced symptoms. These are:

  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days
  • After being outdoors, shower and change your clothes
  • Wipe your pet with a damp cloth to remove pollen from their fur

Dust mites

Dust mites are microscopic arthropods (bugs) that live on flakes of human skin that have been shed. Anywhere humans are, dust mites are. Removing as many of these allergy-triggering dust mites as possible from your home will improve your symptoms. Focus your time on cleaning your bedroom and other areas you spend significant amounts of time in, such as your living room.

How to reduce your exposure to dust mites

Reducing exposure to dust mites can be an incredible aid in reducing dust mite allergy symptoms as well. We recommend:

  • Washing your bed sheets at least weekly in hot water
  • Heat your comforter in a dryer for 20-30 minutes
  • Dust mites love to inhabit carpeting — special HEPA vacuums are available and more effective in removing dust mites than ordinary vacuuming

Food allergies

Food allergies generally come in two forms: immediate and over time. Some food allergies show symptoms immediately, such as an allergy to peanuts or shrimp. Other allergies take longer for symptoms to develop or may only develop after eating a large amount of a certain food.

Other types of food reactions include oral-allergy syndrome, celiac disease and food intolerance. This is how those reactions often appear:

  • Oral-allergy syndrome: Those suffering from oral-allergy syndrome may suffer from tingling or itching of the lips, mouth or throat after eating certain foods. Oral-allergy syndrome occurs when a person is allergic to certain pollen and their body is fooled into thinking the pollen is present in their food, creating an allergic reaction.
  • Celiac disease: Individuals suffering from celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy, experience a series of gastrointestinal issues when ingesting gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley. Symptoms include diarrhea, gas and abdominal cramping.
  • Food intolerance: These are food reactions that aren’t caused by the immune system at all, so they aren’t allergies. They may be enzyme deficiencies, direct effects of the food on histamine (a compound released by cells) or even food poisoning. An example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance.

How to reduce your exposure to food allergens

The only prevention for food allergies is avoiding the food that causes the reaction, including any product that contains that food as an ingredient, no matter how minimal. Our experts can provide testing to help you know which foods or food products trigger your allergy symptoms.

Mold

Molds are found everywhere, both indoors and out. Mold often grows in damp conditions. In addition, when outdoor conditions are rainy, damp or foggy, mold counts tend to increase.

How to reduce your exposure to mold

Reducing exposure to mold is the key to preventing mold allergy reactions. We recommend:

  • Thoroughly, and regularly, using bleach-containing cleanser on the damp areas of your home such as the kitchen, bathroom, basement and laundry
  • Utilizing a dehumidifier to keep humidity at or below 40%
  • Avoiding gardening and lawn mowing

Pet and other animal dander

People who are allergic to animals react to animal saliva, skin flakes (dander), urine or feathers. Avoiding the animal(s) causing the problem is the simplest solution but isn’t always possible. The allergists at Ohio State will work with pet lovers to find a solution to your reactions to enable you to keep your pets. Specifically, immunotherapy may be a good solution to help your body build a tolerance to the allergens it reacts to.

How to reduce your exposure to pet dander

While complete elimination of pet dander may be impossible for a pet owner, there are some things you can do to reduce exposure. Some of our recommendations include:

  • Make at least one area in your home a dedicated animal-free zone, such as your bedroom
  • Brush or wash your pet regularly
  • Change and wash your clothes after overexposure to your pet’s fur or dander

Insect venom

A sting can often result in a very large local reaction (swelling that extends beyond the sting site). These reactions can be bothersome, but don’t necessarily mean that you have a venom allergy. Those with a venom allergy usually experience more severe reactions in sites distant from the sting. These reactions may include hives, itching or swelling in areas other than the insect sting, abdominal symptoms (such as vomiting or cramping), difficulty breathing, lightheadedness or passing out, and anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction).

What stinging insects cause venom allergy?

Venom allergy is usually caused by reactions to honey bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and fire ants.

How does Ohio State diagnose venom allergy?

Our board-certified allergists will take a detailed history about your reaction and discuss allergy testing options, which may include skin testing and/or blood testing.

How is venom allergy treated?

If you have a venom allergy, we recommend that you carry auto-injectable epinephrine at all times, especially in cases where you may encounter an insect sting. For most people, the best long-term treatment for venom allergy is immunotherapy, or allergy shots. This treatment can prevent life-threatening allergic reactions to venom stings. Once the specific insect venom you’re allergic to is identified, a customized vaccine is mixed for you. Treatment with venom immunotherapy is generally recommended for three to five years, or longer in some cases.

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