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Updated 16 July 2014

What is making you sneeze?

Often it is difficult to distinguish between an allergic reaction and say, the onset of a cold. There are also many different allergens that can cause an allergic reaction.

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Often it is difficult to distinguish between an allergic reaction and say, the onset of a cold. There are also many different allergens that can cause an allergic reaction and if you have noticed that you react badly to a specific allergen, it is wise to avoid it as far as possible.

The following is a list of common allergens. It is quite possible that you could be allergic to more than one of these: animal dander, pollens, dust mites, foods, medications, cockroach droppings, insect stings, moulds. Needless to say, avoiding these is not always easy.

The obvious signs of an allergic reaction are sneezing and itching, a runny nose and watery eyes. But symptoms can also include skin rashes, body pains, fatigue, depression and anxiety.

The different types of allergic reactions
There are five types of allergic reactions. The first is allergic rhinitis – an allergic reaction which causes nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny nose. This can be caused by both indoor allergens and things like pollen. It is often complicated by sinusitis.

The second is seasonal allergic rhinitis which caused by an allergic reaction to the pollen of grass, trees and weeds. This usually only lasts as long as the pollen season of the specific plant in question.

The third is eczema, which is an itchy rash, which is often found on the arms and legs and neck.

Then there is contact dermatitis. This is a reaction in which areas of the skin become red and inflamed after contact with allergens, such as certain cosmetics, medications, plants, chemicals or metals.

Lastly there is urticaria, which can be identified by large itchy blotches on various parts of the skin. This is sometimes triggered by infections, insect bites, medication, food or latex.

What should I do about my allergies?
It is essential to find out which allergen is causing your allergic reaction, so that appropriate medication can be used to combat this. If you have an allergy, it should not just be ignored, because untreated allergies can lead to more serious conditions, such as asthma, skin infections or sinusitis.

Take a look at this video clip of a sneeze in slow motion:

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2011)

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