Types of Allergy: An In-Depth Guide

types of allergy

Sometimes you react to certain things without knowing the cause. Sometimes you develop symptoms like rashes, hives, itching, or swelling after eating, touching, using, or being around certain things. These symptoms or reactions are known as allergies. In simpler terms, allergies are the bodily response to substances the body perceives as harmful and unwanted, whereas they are actually harmless.  According to research, allergies are one of the most common chronic conditions in the word.  So what are the different types of allergy?

Statistics have shown that allergies affect over 50 million Americans. While it may seem unique that the human body mistakes harmless substances for harmful ones, it is quite interesting to know that our body seeks to protect and prevent against unwanted substances. Hence, the need to discuss more on the topic of allergies.

What do we know about allergies?

Allergies are chronic in nature as they last for a very long time. Although you can’t predict the onset of allergies, there are preventive measures, means of management, and treatment plans to alleviate the suffering once it occurs. Plus, allergies can suddenly disappear or appear, so it’s best you see a doctor when you notice symptoms.

Allergies may be seasonal or all-year-round, depending on the type. They may be hereditary as studies have shown that children whose parents suffer from allergies are more likely to develop an allergy. However, they may not have the same allergies as their parents. Also, the types of allergy may vary amongst siblings. Allergies have no known cure, but can be prevented, managed, and treated to relieve the person from suffering.

People suffer from different types of allergy like food allergies, drug allergies, insect sting allergies, skin allergies, latex allergies, and so on. It has been proven that about 55% of people in the US suffer from at least one allergy. Let’s take a look at the different types of allergy that exist.

#1 Food Allergies

Food Allergies are one of the most common types of allergy. Some folks have discovered that about 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies.

Specific symptoms occur, such as vomiting and diarrhea, coughing, rashes, hives, facial swelling or wheezing, as a result of ingesting certain foods. These reactions are known as food allergies and occur as a result of a protective response from the body to such foods. Eight types of foods are known to account for 90% of all food allergies, and they are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

There are other food substances like sesame seeds, mustard seeds, fruits, vegetables, etc. that cause allergic reactions. Food that contains ingredients made from the above substances can also cause allergic reactions even in tiny amounts.

Reactions from food allergies usually involve the gastrointestinal tract, skin, cardiovascular system, and respiratory tract with symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Weak pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Pale or blue skin (due to shortness of breath )
  • Life-threatening anaphylaxis. A person experienceing an anaphylactic reaction needs immediate emergency treatment.

You can manage food allergies by limiting exposure to those foods that trigger allergic reactions. Food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance should not be mistaken for food allergies. The body’s reaction to intolerance is mild and different from that of allergies. Please speak to a health professional if you suspect you have a food allergy.

#2 Drug Allergies

Just as the human body may react to certain foods, the human body also reacts to some drug substances. When we use certain drugs for the first time, we may not react to them. On using the second dose, our body may have developed antibodies against it. This leads to reactions known as allergies.

There are certain families of drugs that are commonly involved in drug allergies. To determine if you are allergic to certain drugs, report all symptoms experienced after taking the drugs to your physician or the prescriber.

The following classes of drugs are the most common drug allergies triggers:

  • Antibiotics e.g. Penicillin
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) e.g. Aspirin, Ibuprofen.
  • Sulfa drugs (e.g. Antibiotics contains sulfonamides)

Regardless of their forms or sizes, the above classes of drugs are known to be the common causes of drug allergies. Drug allergies can result in the following symptoms:

  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Anaphylaxis.

#3 Latex Allergies

Latex is a product of natural rubber and can be in the form of powder used to coat rubber products. It is present in many products. Allergic reactions can arise when people come in contact with it. There are particular groups of people that are more prone to developing a latex allergy, such as people who:

  • Work in the healthcare sector as they often wear latex gloves
  • Whose professions require them to regularly use latex gloves or materials
  • Undergo multiple surgeries, about ten or more
  • Work in the rubber making industry
  • Blow up lots of rubber balloons

The following products contain natural rubber latex:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Airway and intravenous tubing
  • Catheters
  • Syringes
  • Stethoscopes
  • Dental dams
  • Dressings and bandages
  • Underwear legs and waistbands
  • Condoms
  • Nipples and pacifiers
  • Athletic shoes
  • Handbags
  • Balloons
  • Baby bottles
  • Rubber toys

Symptoms associated with latex allergies include:

  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Watery eyes
  • Asthma
  • Anaphylaxis, which may be life-threatening.

#4 Skin Allergies

Skin allergies, also known as dermatitis, are the most visible type of allergy as they involve the reaction of the skin when in direct or indirect contact with certain substances. These reactions may result in localized redness, dry, scaly skin, open sores, or red, bumpy itchy skin. Skin allergies occur as a result of direct or indirect contact with substances such as:

  • Soaps and detergents
  • Solvents
  • Adhesives
  • Chemicals such as acids, alkalies
  • Poison ivy, oak or sumac
  • Metals used in jewelry e.g. nickel
  • Rubbers
  • Perfumes or cosmetics
  • Fabrics e.g. wool
  • Topical medications e.g. antibiotics and anaesthetics

There are different types of skin allergy, including:

  • Eczema: This is a common type of skin allergy characterized by skin irritation to lots of substances. A person with eczema has dry and scaly skin, with areas of the skin appearing red and inflamed. They also have extreme itchiness with a burning sensation.
  • Rashes: Otherwise known as red, bumpy, itchy skin, which is always irritating and painful. It is displeasing and unattractive and often caused by contact with many things including certain plants, e.g. poison ivy, certain medications, or foods. Rashes may also be symptoms of certain illnesses like smallpox, chickenpox or measles.
  • Hives: This is known as urticaria, which is physically characterized by red bumps or welts on the body. It can be acute or chronic. Acute urticaria lasts for six weeks or less and is often caused by reactions to one or more types of allergens. Chronic urticaria, on the other hand, lasts beyond six weeks and has no known cause.
  • Contact dermatitis: As its name suggests, this is a form of skin allergy that occurs when the skin is in contact with irritants such as soaps and detergents, perfumes and cosmetics, adhesives, metals from jewelry, topical medications, body lotions, latex gloves, plants, etc. It may also occur when there is a photoallergic reaction between sunlight and skin irritants such as body lotions. Contact dermatitis results in rashes, itching, blisters, and burning sensation. 

#5 Allergic Rhinitis

This type of allergy is commonly known as hay fever, and it is the reaction of the nose to airbourne allergens in the environment. However, despite the name, it doesn’t necessarily need hay to be present before it occurs. Also, you do not develop a fever from hay fever! So what is hay fever? Let’s take a closer look…

Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal or perennial. When it is seasonal, it means that it occurs in certain seasons such as summer, spring, or early fall as a result of certain plants that grow during these seasons. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is simply a reaction to pollens or plants. Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs all year round as a result of dust, furs, hidden food allergies, cockroaches, or molds.

Substances that trigger allergic rhinitis include:

  • Irritants e.g. exhaust, perfumes, smoke
  • Indoor substances e.g. dust mites, furs, molds
  • Outdoor substances e.g. weeds, pollens, trees

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis are:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy nose, mouth or skin
  • Fatigue
  • Stuffy nose due to congestion
  • Swelling

#6 Insect Sting Allergies

Insect sting allergies are one of the most dangerous types of allergy. They can be extremely painful and also life-threatening within a short period. Bees and its related species are the most common causes of insect sting allergies.

So what should you look out for? The area stung by the insect will have swelling and inflammation. This may be accompanied by other symptoms such as wheezing, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, increased pulse rate, hives, decreased blood pressure, swollen airways, dizziness or fainting. If you experience these symptoms, you need emergency treatment with epinephrine to stop the reaction.

Insect sting allergies should be carefully monitored to avoid fatal incidents. 

#7 Asthma

This is a medical condition characterized by the inflammation of the airways and lungs and the constriction of the bronchial tubes. This can happen as a result of contact with allergens. Asthma can also be linked to allergic rhinitis. Symptoms can include: wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. In America, over 19.2 million people are asthmatic

#8 Allergic Conjunctivitis/Eye Allergy

This is commonly known as ‘pink eye’, an inflammation of the tissue inside the eyelid, called the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva keeps the eyeball and eyelid moist. The pink eye is mostly due to irritants such as cosmetics, dirt, smoke, pool chlorine, and medications e.g. eye drops. When exposed to these allergens, the eyes become irritated. There may be the feeling of something unwanted in the eyes.

Allergic conjunctivitis or eye allergy may present with the following symptoms:

  • Itching of the eye
  • Redness of the eye
  • Burning sensation in the eye
  • Clear, watery discharge from the eye

Final Words

Allergies are reactions where our body’s immune system tries to fight and protect us against perceived harmful substances that are actually harmless. There are different types of allergy out there, ranging from food allergies to drug allergies to skin allergies. Having knowledge about them can go a long way in preventing them or managing them when they occur.

Allergies don’t have cures, may be hereditary or could occur by chance. If you suspect you have an allergy you should always speak to a doctor. Avoiding or limiting exposure to specific triggers may reduce the possibility of a sudden occurrence of such allergies. In case of anaphylaxis reactions, providing immediate emergency treatment is essential.

Mira Rakicevic,
Sleep Expert

About Mira: Before I started working as a sleep expert, I always envied people who were passionate about their jobs. Now I have an opportunity to do something I truly enjoy, and no, I can’t sleep at work! 🙂 For me, it’s definitely as good as it gets – as I spend a considerable amount of time lying down on various mattresses. Apart from testing sleeping products, I do thorough research and inspect every little bit about both the company and their product before I prepare a review to help guide you to your ideal sleeping situation. Plus, I work cloesly with other experts and medical writers to provide you with valuable information and helpful advice about sleep.