9 surprising allergy triggers

Are you unsure what’s causing your allergy symptoms?

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
Ask Louise

18 September 2020

What can trigger allergic rhinitis?

During the hayfever season or in a dog-loving friend's house, we may expect and be prepared for the onset of allergy symptoms. However, sometimes our sticky eyes, runny nose or itchy skin can develop more suddenly.

There could be several reasons for this, but today I am looking at 9 possible allergy triggers so that you can rule them in or out as the culprit.

So, what are these 9 surprising allergy triggers?

  1. Make-up
  2. Pollution
  3. Aerosols
  4. Candles
  5. Cleaning sprays
  6. Paint
  7. Fermented/preserved foods
  8. Bath and shower gels
  9. House plants

1. Make-up

The release of histamine that is triggered upon contact with an allergen can cause sensitive, itchy skin. Due to the harsh ingredients they contain, applying some make-ups on top of this is likely to cause a more severe flare-up.

Also, when did you last clear out the old mascaras from your make-up bag or clean up those well-used brushes? It's important that anything being applied to the skin around your face or eyes is super clean and in date to reduce the risk of allergy issues.

SWAP: Use natural make-up brands, such as Sukin and Green People, which are a little gentler on the skin.

Did You Know? Isobornyl acrylate, a component of the glue used in cosmetics, has been named the allergen of the year for 2020 by The American Contact Dermatitis Society.

2. Pollution

If you live in a town or city, pollution in the area could cause allergy symptoms to arise outside the periods you'd usually expect them; plus, the symptoms are likely to be more severe when they do come on.

Hayfever sufferers, in particular, are likely to feel the effects of pollution on their symptoms.

This is because pollution particles contribute to a smog that prevents pollen from being released into the upper atmosphere. This means pollen hangs around for longer than usual and it is easily breathed in through the nose and mouth.

TIP: Try Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets to help manage your allergy symptoms. This natural remedy can help common problems, including sneezing, irritated eyes and a tickly nose.

3. Aerosols

Aerosols, including air fresheners and deodorants, can also be problematic for those with allergies. Just think of all those harsh, artificial chemicals you are breathing in!

If your body is on red alert for the presence of allergens, it is much more likely to react to things that are usually harmless, such as aerosols.

In particular, it is sensible to avoid using chemical car 'fresheners', as they can irritate sensitive nasal membranes, especially in the close confines of a car.

An air purifier is a much gentler way to get rid of pollutants in the room. It is also a good idea to address the root cause of smells since an air freshener will only mask the problem anyway.

When it comes to deodorants, I would suggest using a natural roll-on.

My Top Tip:

Ditch chemical deodorants for a natural brand like Salt of the Earth. This provides long-lasting protection, without leaving any white marks.

"Smells great and works perfectly."

Read more customer reviews

4. Candles

Who doesn't like a nice smelling candle accompanied by a bubble bath or a good book at the end of a hard day? Did you know, however, that candles are another thing that can exacerbate allergy symptoms like a runny nose or streaming eyes? This is particularly the case with cheaper varieties of candle, or even expensive ones that make use of non-natural, harsh and artificial scents.

SWAP: Use a diffuser with essential oils to scent your home.

5. Cleaning sprays

We use them for everything from wiping surfaces to washing windows but, unfortunately, surface sprays are another source of harsh, allergy-inducing chemicals.

To minimise their impact, I would recommend ventilating the area you are cleaning while products are being used. It is also a good idea to keep windows open for a period afterwards as well.

On top of this, remember that the harsh cleaning chemicals used in changing rooms and swimming pools can trigger reactions in a sensitive respiratory system. You may find it beneficial to limit your time in these areas if this is the case, particularly if we are in a period when allergy symptoms are already heightened, such as the hayfever season.

SWAP: Natural cleaning brands are widely available in supermarkets, online and in health food stores. Look out for Ecover.

My self-care tip: Avoiding an allergy flare-up when cleaning

Cleaning creates the perfect storm for an allergy flare-up so I thought it would be a good idea to make a quick video with some tips on how to avoid symptoms at this time!

6. Paint

Have you recently done a spot of redecorating? If so, this too may trigger a bout of allergic rhinitis.

Again, this may be linked to the strong chemicals used in the paint and the bold smells it emits. Look out for oils and acrylics, which many are sensitive to.

SWAP: If you can't get yourself out of the house whilst any redecorating takes place or, indeed, you have to do the redecorating yourself, it may be worth investigating allergy and eco-friendly paints. This is a growing market but one brand I recently looked into was Earthborn.

7. Fermented/preserved foods

Fermented foods may contain higher levels of histamine than fresh foods.

The bacterial products caused by food fermentation or spoilage can then increase the likelihood of histamine release caused by allergens and bacteria.1

Watch out for foods including:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Kombucha.

SWAP: Eat plenty of fresh food, including fruit and oily fish, to help the body deal with allergens.

Did you know? We have lots of foody blogs to explore here at A.Vogel. Check out my piece on food and drinks to help allergic rhinitis if you’d like some further advice on this topic.

8. Bath and shower gels

You may find that your immune system objects to the chemicals in bath and shower gels, thus resulting in allergy symptoms.

These kinds of products can also deteriorate quite quickly, sometimes in as little as six months. So, if you are using a Christmas bath bomb in July, a reaction is much more likely. It may just be worth checking your dates before applying anything to your skin!

SWAP: Use natural bath salts to give your bath a relaxing, allergy-friendly scent.

9. House plants

A nice orchid or cactus may be aesthetically pleasing but these too can cause problems (sorry!). This is because spores and mould can linger in old soil. Plus, plant sprays may also contain potentially irritating ingredients.

SWAP: Get green fingered outside if indoor plants are causing issues. If you don't have an outdoor space, you could simply arrange plants on your doorstep or in a windowsill display. If you are really keen, you could consider volunteering at a local community garden in a nearby allotment.


1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18756395/ 

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