Skip to Main Content
A primary care physician talks with her male patient about his wellness plan while they wear masks.

What are allergies?

Allergies are immune system reactions to harmless substances, causing symptoms like sneezing, itching, and congestion. Whether it's the seasonal pollen that sets off your sneezing fits or specific foods that trigger discomfort, understanding allergies is essential for taking control of your well-being.

What are common symptoms of allergies?

Common symptoms of allergies can vary depending on the type of allergen and the individual's sensitivity, but some general symptoms include:

  • Sneezing: Frequent sneezing, especially in response to triggers like pollen, dust, or pet dander.

  • Runny or stuffy nose: Excess mucus production or congestion in the nasal passages.

  • Itchy or watery eyes: Irritation, redness, itching, and watering of the eyes.

  • Coughing: Persistent coughing, often worse at night.

  • Wheezing: Whistling sound while breathing, especially common in allergic asthma.

  • Skin reactions: Itchy skin, hives (raised, red welts on the skin), or eczema flare-ups.

  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or sluggish due to the body's immune response.

  • Headache: Allergic reactions can trigger headaches or migraines.

  • Sore throat: Irritation and discomfort in the throat.

  • Shortness of breath: Especially in cases of severe allergic reactions or asthma.


It's important to note that these symptoms can range from mild to severe. If you suspect you have allergies or experience severe symptoms, it's recommended to consult a Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group provider for proper diagnosis and management.

What are the common causes and triggers of allergies?

  • Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds can trigger seasonal allergic reactions, commonly known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis.

  • Microscopic organisms, or dust mites, that thrive in household dust, bedding, and upholstery can trigger allergic reactions.

  • Pet dander, which is a protein found in skin cells, saliva, and urine of pets like cats and dogs, can cause allergic symptoms.

  • Mold spores that are present in damp environments, such as bathrooms and basements, can lead to allergic reactions.

  • Insect stings and bites of insects like bees, wasps, hornets, and mosquitoes can cause allergic reactions.

  • Certain foods like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish have allergens.

  • Some individuals may be allergic to certain medications, leading to allergic reactions when the medication is taken.

  • Latex products, such as gloves and condoms, can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

  • Exposure to certain household chemicals in cleaning products, fragrances, and cosmetics can trigger allergies.

  • Smoke from tobacco, as well as air pollution, can exacerbate respiratory allergies.

  • Some people may be allergic to fabrics like wool or synthetic materials used in clothing and bedding.

  • Cold air can trigger symptoms in individuals with a condition called cold-induced urticaria.

  • Contact with certain plants like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac can lead to allergic skin reactions.


How do you treat allergies?

The treatment of allergies depends on the severity of symptoms and the specific type of allergy. Here are some common approaches to treating allergies:

  • Allergen avoidance: The first step is to identify and avoid the allergen that triggers your symptoms. This might involve making changes to your environment, diet, or daily routines to minimize exposure.

  • Medications:

    • Antihistamines: These drugs can help relieve symptoms like sneezing, itching, and runny nose by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical released during allergic reactions.

    • Decongestants: Decongestant nasal sprays or oral medications can reduce nasal congestion by narrowing blood vessels.

    • Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory medications are available as nasal sprays, inhalers, creams, or oral tablets to reduce inflammation and control symptoms.

    • Leukotriene modifiers: These medications help control allergic reactions by blocking the action of certain chemicals in the body.

    • Epinephrine: For severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) may be prescribed. It rapidly reverses symptoms and buys time until emergency medical help arrives.

  • Immunotherapy: Allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy) or oral tablets (sublingual immunotherapy) can gradually desensitize your immune system to specific allergens, reducing the severity of allergic reactions over time.

  • Nasal irrigation: Rinsing your nasal passages with a saline solution can help relieve nasal congestion and flush out irritants.

  • Allergy-proofing your home: Taking measures such as using allergen-proof bedding, keeping windows closed during pollen seasons, and using air purifiers can help reduce allergen exposure.

  • Natural remedies: Some people find relief from allergies through natural remedies like using saline nasal rinses, consuming local honey, or using herbal supplements. However, consult your Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care provider before trying any natural remedies.

  • Consulting a specialist: If your allergies are severe or not responding to over-the-counter medications, consider seeing an allergist or immunologist. They can perform tests to identify specific allergens and recommend appropriate treatment.

  • Lifestyle changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help manage allergies. Adequate hydration, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and managing stress can support your immune system and overall well-being.


It's important to work with a Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care provider to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific allergies and needs. Allergy treatment aims to alleviate symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce the risk of complications from allergic reactions.

How can you manage food allergies effectively?

Managing food allergies effectively involves a combination of prevention, careful dietary choices, and preparedness. Here are some key strategies to manage food allergies:

  • Identify allergens: Determine the specific foods that trigger your allergic reactions through allergy testing. This knowledge is essential for effective management.

  • Read labels: Always read food labels carefully to identify potential allergens in packaged foods. Manufacturers are required to list common allergens on labels.

  • Avoid cross-contamination: Prevent cross-contact by thoroughly cleaning surfaces, utensils, and cookware after they've been in contact with allergenic foods. Consider using separate cooking utensils and equipment for allergen-free meals.

  • Inform others: Communicate your food allergies to family members, friends, restaurants, and food service staff. Make sure they understand the seriousness of cross-contamination and the importance of avoiding allergens.

  • Plan meals: Prepare meals at home whenever possible, as this gives you full control over ingredients. Research and experiment with allergy-safe recipes to enjoy a variety of foods.

  • Pack safe snacks: Carry safe, non-perishable snacks when you're away from home to ensure you have something to eat in case suitable options are not available.

  • Educate yourself: Learn alternative names for allergens and hidden sources in foods. Some ingredients may have different names or forms in various products.

  • Emergency medication: Carry an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) if your doctor recommends it. This can provide life-saving treatment in case of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

  • Restaurant precautions: When dining out, inform the restaurant staff about your allergies. Ask about ingredients and preparation methods. Choose restaurants that are known for accommodating allergies.

  • Allergy action plan: Develop a clear action plan with your St. Luke’s Health primary care provider for managing accidental exposures. Know the signs of an allergic reaction and how to use your medication.

  • Support groups: Join local or online support groups for individuals with food allergies. Connecting with others who share similar experiences can provide valuable insights and emotional support.

  • Stay informed: Stay updated on the latest research and developments in food allergies. Asthe understanding of allergies evolves, new strategies and treatments may emerge.


How do you prevent allergies?

Preventing allergies involves minimizing exposure to allergens and adopting certain lifestyle practices. While complete prevention may not always be possible, these strategies can help reduce the risk of allergic reactions:

  • Identify allergens: Determine the specific allergens that trigger your reactions through allergy testing. This knowledge allows you to take targeted preventive measures.

  • Allergen avoidance:

    • Environmental allergens: Minimize exposure to pollen, dust mites, mold, and pet dander by keeping your living spaces clean, using air purifiers, and regularly washing bedding and curtains.

    • Food allergens: Read food labels carefully, inform restaurants about your allergies, and prepare meals at home to have better control over ingredients.

  • Pet allergies: If you're allergic to pets, consider non-allergenic or hypoallergenic breeds. Regular grooming and keeping pets out of certain areas in your home can also help.

  • Pollen control: Stay indoors during high pollen seasons, keep windows closed, and use air conditioning with clean filters to reduce exposure to outdoor allergens.

  • Hygiene practices:

    • Personal hygiene: Wash your hands frequently, especially after being in public places or touching potential allergens.

    • Nasal irrigation: Use saline nasal rinses to clear nasal passages of allergens.

    • Shower before bed: Shower and change clothes before going to bed to remove pollen and other allergens from your body and hair.

  • Allergy-proofing your home: Use allergen-proof bedding, regularly clean carpets and upholstery, and consider using HEPA filters in your vacuum cleaner and air purifiers.

  • Avoid tobacco smoke: If you smoke, quitting is important. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, as it can exacerbate allergic reactions.

  • Outdoor precautions: When outdoors during allergy seasons, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, and consider wearing a hat to prevent pollen from settling in your hair.

  • Medication compliance: If prescribed allergy medications, take them as directed by your Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care provider to manage symptoms effectively.

  • Immunotherapy: Consider allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots or tablets) as recommended by your doctor. This treatment can help reduce your sensitivity to specific allergens over time.

  • Healthy lifestyle: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants, staying hydrated, and getting regular exercise can support your immune system and overall health.

  • Consult a specialist: Work with an allergist or immunologist at St. Luke’s Health to develop a personalized prevention plan based on your specific allergies and needs.


How to allergy-proof your home?

Allergy-proofing your home involves creating an environment that minimizes allergen exposure and promotes better indoor air quality. Here are some effective steps to allergy-proof your home:

  • Regular cleaning:

    • Dust and vacuum: Clean your home regularly using a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. Focus on carpets, rugs, upholstery, and curtains.

    • Damp dusting: Use a damp cloth for dusting surfaces to prevent allergens from becoming airborne.

  • Bedroom:

    • Hypoallergenic bedding: Use allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers to prevent dust mites and other allergens from collecting in your bedding.

    • Wash bedding: Wash sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in hot water (above 130°F or 54°C) weekly.

  • Air filtration:

    • High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters: Use HEPA filters in your vacuum cleaner, air purifiers, and HVAC system to capture allergens like dust, pollen, and pet dander.

  • Minimize clutter:

    • Reduce decorative items: Minimize items that collect dust, such as knick-knacks, stuffed animals, and heavy drapes.

    • Clear clutter: Keep your living spaces uncluttered to prevent dust from accumulating.

  • Pets:

    • Designated areas: Keep pets out of bedrooms and other areas where you spend a lot of time.

    • Regular grooming: Bathe and groom pets regularly to reduce shedding and dander.

  • Ventilation:

    • Proper ventilation: Ensure good air circulation by opening windows when weather permits. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to reduce humidity.

  • Humidity control:

    • Dehumidifiers: Use dehumidifiers in damp areas like basements to prevent mold growth.

    • Maintain ideal humidity: Aim for indoor humidity levels between 30% and 50% to discourage dust mites and mold.

  • Kitchen:

    • Proper food storage: Store food in airtight containers to prevent pests like cockroaches, which can trigger allergies.

  • Filters and maintenance:

    • HVAC system: Change HVAC filters regularly to prevent allergens from circulating through your home.

    • Air ducts: Have air ducts cleaned and inspected periodically to remove dust and debris.

  • Pest control:

    • Seal cracks: Seal any cracks or openings in walls, floors, and windows to prevent pests from entering your home.

    • Professional pest control: If you have pest issues, consider professional pest control services.

  • Carpets and flooring:

    • Hard flooring: Opt for hard flooring like hardwood, tile, or laminate, which is easier to clean and doesn't trap allergens as much as carpets.

  • Allergen-free zones:

    • Create designated allergen-free zones, such as bedrooms, where you can retreat to find relief from allergens.

  • Avoid smoke:

    • No smoking: Maintain a smoke-free environment indoors. Avoid smoking or allowing others to smoke indoors.

  • Greenery:

    • Indoor plants: Be cautious with indoor plants, as they can harbor mold and pollen. Choose low-allergen plants if you do have them.


By implementing these measures, you can significantly reduce allergen exposure in your home, creating a healthier and more comfortable living environment for yourself and your family.

What do I need to know about allergy testing?

Allergy testing is a valuable tool for identifying specific allergens that trigger your allergic reactions. Here's what you need to know about allergy testing:

  • Types of allergy tests:

    • Skin prick test: Small amounts of allergens are applied to your skin through tiny pricks. If you're allergic, you'll develop a small raised bump at the test site.

    • Blood test (Specific IgE Test): A blood sample is taken and tested for the presence of allergen-specific IgE antibodies.

  • When to consider allergy testing:

    • Persistent symptoms: If you experience persistent allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itching, or congestion, despite attempts to avoid potential triggers.

    • Severe reactions: If you've had severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) and want to identify the trigger.

    • Unclear allergies: If you're unsure about the cause of your symptoms and want a definitive diagnosis.

  • Preparing for testing:

    • Medications: Some medications (antihistamines, certain antidepressants) can interfere with test results. Your doctor might ask you to stop taking them before the test.

    • Medical history: Be prepared to provide detailed information about your symptoms, triggers, and family history of allergies.

  • The testing process:

    • Skin prick test: The allergist places small amounts of allergens on your skin, usually on your forearm or back. After a short time, they'll look for any reactions.

    • Blood test: A blood sample is taken and sent to a lab for analysis. Results are usually available within a few days.

  • Interpreting results:

    • Positive reaction: A raised bump or high levels of allergen-specific IgE antibodies indicate an allergy to the tested substance.

    • Negative reaction: Absence of a reaction or low IgE levels suggest no allergy to the tested substance.

  • Limitations:

    • False positives/negatives: Allergy tests aren't foolproof. False positives (reacting to something you're not allergic to) and false negatives (not reacting to something you are allergic to) can occur.

    • Clinical correlation: Test results should be interpreted in the context of your medical history and symptoms.

  • Allergen panels: Allergists often use panels of common allergens based on your symptoms and history. They might customize the panel to include specific allergens relevant to you.

  • Follow-up: Once allergens are identified, your doctor will help you develop an allergy management plan, which may include allergen avoidance, medications, or immunotherapy.

  • Immunotherapy consideration: If your allergies are severe or difficult to manage, immunotherapy (allergy shots or tablets) might be recommended to desensitize you to specific allergens.

  • Consult a specialist: It's important to undergo allergy testing under the guidance of a qualified allergist or immunologist who can interpret the results accurately and provide appropriate recommendations.


Allergy testing can provide crucial information for effectively managing your allergies and improving your quality of life. Consult a St. Luke’s Health allergist to determine if allergy testing is appropriate for you and to discuss the best approach for your specific situation.

When is allergy season?

Allergy season typically occurs during spring, late spring to early summer, and late summer to fall. The specific timing varies based on the types of allergens, such as tree pollen in spring, grass pollen in late spring to early summer, and weed pollen in late summer to fall. However, the exact timing and severity of allergy seasons can also be influenced by factors like climate and geographic location. It's advisable to monitor local pollen forecasts and consult with a Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care provider for accurate information about allergy seasons in your area.

Featured Updates

Guide to self-care for caregivers + free habit tracker

OCT 26, 2021

Check out these helpful resources on understanding caregiver burnout, how to ask for caregiver support, and taking breaks to get the self-care you need.

Read More Additional information about Guide to self-care for caregivers + free habit tracker

Find a Doctor

Looking for a doctor? Perform a quick search by name or browse by specialty.

Find A Location

View All Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group Locations


For existing patients, please log in with your username and password to schedule an appointment.

Forgot MyChart Username?

U.S. News & World Report

U.S News & World Report has recognized Baylor St. Luke's Health Medical Center as one of the best hospitals for several specialties.