All About Allergies

Allergies are caused by the immune system’s reaction to things in our environment. The things you are allergic to are called allergens. Allergens can range from items such as pollen and molds to food and chemicals. By far, the allergens that cause the most sinus problems are those that we inhale, such as pollen and molds.

When the body comes into contact with something to which it is allergic, it produces several chemicals. The most common is histamine, which causes swelling and inflammation. If allergies are severe and persistent enough, chronic conditions such as rhinitis, sinusitis, polyps, or asthma can result.

Allergies affect the sinuses when airborne allergens come into contact with the mucus lining in the nose and sinuses. The release of histamine and the resulting swelling can cause symptoms that include:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Irritation in the nose and throat
  • Circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow to the sinuses

In the South, allergies are very common due to the large number of pollen-producing plants. Non-plant allergens include mold, house dust mites, and pet dander.

Take Our Sinus Quiz

Our quiz measures symptoms, along with frequency and duration, and is used as a tool for diagnosis and treatment.

Pet Allergies

Pet allergies can strike anyone at any age of his or her life. Most people who suffer from pet allergies often have additional moderate allergies to pollen or molds. People who are allergic to animals are often allergic to pet dander, saliva, or urine. Because cats and dogs are the most common pets, they are at the top of the list of animals to which people are the most allergic. People can also be allergic to several other animals including:

  • Guinea pigs
  • Horses
  • Birds
  • Hamsters and gerbils
  • Rabbits
  • Goats
  • Cows

Enzymes in an animal’s saliva and dander are the most common cause of allergic reactions due to animals. While reactions can be controlled with antibiotics and over-the-counter products, there isn’t a cure for pet allergies.

Insect Sting Allergies

Wasp, bee, yellow jacket, hornet, and fire ant stings most often trigger allergic reactions.

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to insect bites may include one or more of the following:

  • Rapid pulse
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the throat, face, or mouth
  • Wheezing or difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness or severe drop in blood pressure
Although severe allergic reactions to insect bites are not that common, they can lead to shock or cause cardiac arrest in 10 minutes or less. It is important to get emergency treatment as soon as possible. Luckily, most people do not react this severely to insect bites, but wasp and bee stings can be very painful even if they don’t require medical attention.