Allergies suck. So, this Allergy Awareness Week, we’ve rounded up five common culprits causing your flare ups

Having an allergic reaction is snot fun

Rule number one with allergies: always keep tissues on hand for your allergies (photo credit: Diana Polekhina 

Allergies are just the worst. They’re awkward, painful, restricting and downright annoying – not to mention expensive. Allergic reactions are difficult and wide-ranging in condition and severity, and can happen at any point in life. That’s right, you can accrue an allergy later on in life, which we think is just unfair – though, many people tend to outgrow their allergies by the time they hit their thirties, so says Healthline

Allergies are very common. According to the NHS website, a surprising one in four people are affected by these pesky ailments at one stage in their life, from childhood through to old age. So if you are among the lucky few, count your blessings. Gazuntai. 

Back to basics

Okay, so we’re all aware of what an allergy is, but let’s get the science of why it happens out the way. An allergy is a reaction the body has to a particular food or substance. It’s your immune system’s way of protecting your body from substances thought to be harmful like pathogens. Allergies can often be misconstrued as sensitivities or intolerances and, while the latter are deeply unpleasant and inconvenient, they are seen to be minor in comparison to anaphylaxis and allergic reactions. 

I’m not crying, it’s my hay fever

Tracy Beaker

What’s more is that, according to the NHS site, the number of people affected by allergies is increasing year on year, for a reason not yet known.  One theory claims it is “the result of living in a cleaner, germ-free environment” which has reduced the number of germs our immune system has to deal with – and that’s with a global pandemic still going on! 

So who are the contenders for most common nuisances our body has kindly gifted us with? Up first we have: 

Grass and Tree pollen: “I’m not crying, it’s my hay fever”

More lovingly known as hay fever – or allergic rhinitis… but have you ever heard anyone call it that? – it is well acquainted with most of its victims with a few newbies added each year. It flourishes in the spring and summer months while grass, flowers and plants thrive – spreading its pollen.

Tracy Beaker famously once said, “I’m not crying, it’s my hay fever.”  Now, we all know that hayfever wasn’t the cause of her tears, but the real aversion to pollen, dust or mould irritates your nose and causes cold-like symptoms, headaches, itchy throat, and red and watery eyes.  

Now is the time to antihistamine-up people; hayfever season is upon us. 

Dust mites

Sounds gross, we know. But this allergic reaction, usually caused when inhaling these cretins, erupts in sneezing, coughing, facial pressure and pain – and though similar to hayfever, it’s not to be mistaken for it. According to the mayo clinic, many people with dust mite allergy also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Animal dander: aka the pet allergy

When you were a kid, do you remember having a friend who couldn’t come and play because they were allergic to cats or dogs? Well, this means they have an allergy to the skin, hair flakes or bodily fluid from an animal. Ew. This can cause sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing even. So, if your mate has an allergy to your perfect pooch pal, don’t force it on them. Let them admire from a distance. 

Food, glorious food

People can be allergic to the weirdest of foods. From the classics like dairy, gluten (coeliacs), shellfish and nuts to rogue options like worcester sauce and sugars found in food such as alpha-galactose, which is found in red meat. The reactions are wide ranging, and some are just odd: tingling or itching of the mouth or tongue, a raised, itchy red rash, swelling in various areas of the body (though not all at once usually) – alongside our trusty hayfever symptoms. 

These reactions are never worth that one little bite of heaven to experience the taste. 

Insect bites and stings – sadly, you won’t turn into spiderman

Most of us are probably all too familiar with these pesky buggers. That mozzie bite on holiday that just wouldn’t stop itching, or that wasp that got too attached. These bites and stings will more often than not cause a swollen red lump on your skin that is painful and itchy. The culprits are: wasps, hornets, bees, horseflies, ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs, spiders and midges. So, remember that insect repellent wherever you go. Even in the UK we’re not safe from the pincers of these mites.