What is airborne allergy? Causes, symptoms and treatment

From coughing, itching, and sneezing to watery eyes, airborne allergies can be excruciating. It can be hard to find relief because allergens may be found inside your home or outdoors. Read more about the most common airborne allergies, their symptoms, prevention, and treatment methods.

Ferriuel / Michaela Butenol

What is airborne allergy?

Airborne allergy is an allergy that occurs when your immune system overreacts to an airborne allergen (aerogen). Examples of allergens include germs or pollen. It can spread in the air.

An allergen is a substance (usually a protein) that is not harmful in itself. But in some people, its presence causes immune cells to produce a type of antibody that provokes an allergic reaction.

the reasons

Depending on where you live, many airborne allergens may be present in your environment. These are not harmful in and of themselves and do not trigger a reaction in everyone, but they may occur in some people. Some common sources of airborne allergens include:

  • dust mites
  • vaccine
  • fungal spores
  • pet moon

Common types of airborne allergies

There are different types of airborne allergies. The most common causes of rhinitis are pollen, germs, and dust mites.

Animal allergens

The majority of people with allergies to animals own pets. Roughly 62% of households in the United States have pets, and more than 161 million of these pets are cats and dogs.

Proteins in skin flakes, saliva, and urine can trigger allergy symptoms. People who do not have a pet in their home, but who visit a home with a pet or an environment frequented by pets, may also experience allergy symptoms.

Pets are also likely to collect outdoor allergens (such as pollen) in their fur, which can cause an allergic reaction not from the pet itself.

fungal spores

Fungal spores are released by mold. They float in the air and can be found outdoors and indoors. Everyone inhales air that contains these particles. But some people have sensitive immune systems and develop allergies or asthma symptoms if they inhale a lot of these fungi.

When those allergic to fungal spores inhale it, their immune system causes reactions like sneezing, runny nose, itchy mouth and lips, watery eyes, etc. However, not every type of mold causes allergies. The most common types of allergens are: Cladosporium And the Aspergillus fungus.


Pollen is produced by plants as part of their reproduction. It is a yellowish powder that is carried in the air to fertilize plants. It causes allergy symptoms in people who are sensitive to it. They may experience symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, and a runny nose.

Many people are allergic to certain pollen from trees or weeds. They may have a seasonal allergy to airborne pollen when pollen counts are high.

Allergens to dust mites and insects

Various types of insects can travel in the air and cause allergic reactions. These include saliva, dried feces, scales, and wings. Cockroaches, flies, and even caterpillars can be sources of these allergens.

Dust mites are a common source of airborne allergens. They are microscopic insects that live in damp areas such as furniture, carpets, and bedding. When disturbed, mite allergens can travel through the air.

Dust mite allergies can lead to allergic rhinitis (runny nose), asthma symptoms, or eczema flare-ups (an itchy skin condition).

Airborne allergens in house dust

While cleaning at home, it is common for dust particles to fly into the air. This results in a variety of airborne allergens, including allergens from dust mites, cockroaches, pets, mold and pollen. This can cause symptoms such as:

  • Red, itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy and runny nose
  • stuffy nose
  • sneezing

Industrial and occupational allergens

Industrial allergens are also known as occupational allergens. In this mode, dust and a variety of allergens can spread into the air. It can cause allergies or occupational asthma, the most common work-related lung disease in developed nations.

In the case of asthma, allergens can cause the airways to inflame, narrow and produce excess mucus, leading to breathing difficulties. Non-allergens can also trigger occupational asthma, such as chemical fumes.

If your family has a history of asthma, you are more likely to develop asthma due to conditions to which your immune system is exposed. However, you can still develop occupational asthma, even though your family doesn’t have anyone with an allergy.

food allergens

While food allergies are typically caused by eating food, airborne food allergens can be produced during food preparation and cooking, as well as in food processing facilities. These can cause symptoms such as a runny nose or itchy eyes, but they do not usually cause a life-threatening reaction.

Food allergy is usually diagnosed in young children although it can also appear in older children and adults. Eggs, fish, peanuts, and shellfish are some of the foods that cause the most allergic reactions.


Symptoms of allergy to airborne allergens can include:

Allergic asthma symptoms can also be triggered by airborne allergens. These may include:

management and prevention

Some of the ways you can help reduce airborne allergens include:

  • Avoid carpets, fabric-covered furniture, and heavy fabric window coverings. These can harbor dust and dust mites. It is best to have surfaces that you can clean.
  • clean often. Wet hard floor mop daily. Use a dry cloth on hard surfaces to remove dust weekly. Dust and a vacuum cleaner can raise dust, so you may want to wear a mask. Vacuuming or carpet steaming may be a good option.
  • Close doors and windows. This is especially recommended during the season when the pollen count is higher. Also, avoid being outdoors during those periods.
  • Keep humidity low. Keep the relative humidity in your home below 50% to reduce dust mite growth.
  • Use the air filter. Using air filters such as HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters can trap these allergens and reduce your sensitivity. They work by forcing air through a tiny mesh that prevents allergens from triggering your allergy.
  • Wash and roll bedding. Wash all bedding once or twice a week in hot water to kill dust mites. Cover mattresses, box springs, and pillows with dust mite-proof covers.
  • Wash clothes and fabrics frequently. Dust and dirt from your clothes can also trigger your allergies. So it should be washed regularly.

When to seek occupational therapy?

Any allergic reaction that interferes with your breathing needs immediate medical attention.

If you have minor allergy symptoms, you may not seek professional treatment. But if your symptoms are diminishing your quality of life or you frequently use over-the-counter medications, it is best to consult a healthcare professional.

Your primary health care provider may be able to provide assistance or refer you to an allergist. An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases. They can identify the allergens responsible for triggering your allergic reactions.

An allergist may also recommend immunotherapy (allergy shots) to desensitize to airborne allergens. They can help you prevent and control allergies while you go about your normal activities.


Airborne allergies often occur when your immune system overreacts to airborne allergens, such as germs, pollen or pet dander. Symptoms can include coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, or dark circles under the eyes. Additionally, lifestyle measures can help reduce triggers, and your doctor can recommend medications to reduce symptoms.

Word from Verywell

Airborne allergies may disrupt your normal daily activities due to sneezing, itchy nose, and watery eyes. Avoid common allergens so you don’t expose yourself to allergy attacks. You can try to stay indoors when the pollen count is high, or wear a mask in dusty places.

See your health care professional for recommendations on over-the-counter medications and treatments that may help reduce symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How sick can airborne allergies make you?

    Airborne allergies can cause a range of symptoms such as sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and itchy eyes, nose, and throat. Sometimes the symptoms are mild. Other times they are dangerous and must be treated by a professional.

  • Is food considered allergic to the atmosphere?

    Reactions to allergens in the air are not common and are usually mild. They include runny nose, wheezing and urticaria. However, people with asthma may be prone to breathing problems from food allergens floating in the air.

  • What percentage of people have airborne allergies?

    Hay fever affects up to 60 million people each year in the United States with symptoms such as congestion and sneezing. Meanwhile, allergic conjunctivitis (eye inflammation) is found in up to 30% of the population and in 7 out of 10 allergic rhinitis patients.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: