Allergies and Allergens - Telfast New Zealand
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Allergies and Allergens

Published on July 29, 2019

Allergies and Allergens

What are allergies?

Allergy symptoms occur when your body’s immune system overreacts to something harmless typically known as an allergen. Whenever an allergen is breathed in or comes into contact with the skin, your immune system attacks the substance by releasing chemicals such as histamine.

People affected by this may experience allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, watery eyes, itchy skin or swelling related to allergy.

Why do we get allergies?

Risk factors that may cause allergies to develop include:

1. Family history1

Most allergies are inherited which means they are passed down from parent to child. Although someone may inherit the tendency to be ‘allergic’, they may not inherit an allergy to the same thing.

2. Diet1

Introducing your baby to cow’s milk, soy milk formula or solid foods before three to four months of age can be a risk factor.

3. Birthday1

Having a spring birth month. Babies born during this time of the year have a higher risk of developing seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hayfever.

4. Cigarettes1

Passive exposure to cigarette smoke also increases a child’s risk of developing allergic respiratory symptoms.

5. Exposure1

Being consistently exposed to substances that can trigger allergies (allergens) in home or work environments puts you at greater risk.

Can allergies develop at any age?

Although allergies are more common in children, they can develop at any time or age. Exposure to allergens when your body’s defences are weak, like after illness or pregnancy, can sometimes trigger allergies.

Do allergies stick around for life?

Not always. Sometimes allergy symptoms start in childhood, disappear for many years, and then start up again in adult life. Unfortunately, allergic people are also prone to developing new allergies, so while you may not be as sensitive to pollen anymore, moulds or dust mites may begin to cause difficulties.

How do I treat allergies?

Allergies can usually be treated through a range of products including antihistamines, which stop histamine from attaching to cells and causing allergy symptoms.

Telfast is a fast, non-drowsy oral antihistamine that works to reduce the symptoms of hayfever allergies. If you suffer from hayfever allergies click here to find a Telfast product appropriate for you.

For more information, visit the ASCIA website.

Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.

What are the different types of allergies?

1. Dust mite allergies

Dust mites are tiny creatures that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. They reside in fibre-filled surfaces such as mattresses, pillows, linen, carpets and other areas where the conditions are warm, dark and humid. An allergic reaction is triggered by inhalation of the mites’ shed skins and their waste.

2. Pet allergies

Pet allergies are relatively common and are often triggered by pet dander from animals such as dogs and cats. People with pet allergies have sensitive immune systems that react to harmless proteins found in dander, pet saliva or urine. Contrary to popular belief, pet hair itself is not an allergen, but it may collect dander. Unfortunately for animal lovers, avoiding exposure to the problem animal is the best way to avoid allergy symptoms.

3. Mould allergies

Mould is commonly found both indoors and outside, and may be found in damp, poorly ventilated areas. This allergen can trigger symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and a blocked or runny nose. Kitchens, bathrooms and laundries are the most common areas of the house that mould grows because of condensation and a lack of airflow.

4. Pollen allergies

Many people are allergic to pollen produced by trees, grasses, weeds and flowers. This type of allergic reaction is known as hayfever. Symptoms can include sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, watery eyes, itchy skin or swelling.

5. Oral allergies

Protein found in fruits and vegetables may cause oral allergy syndrome, and causes itching in the mouth when a particular fruit or vegetable is eaten. In some people who suffer hayfever allergy symptoms, their immune system may treat proteins found in some fruits and vegetables the same way that it treats proteins found in pollen. The result is a condition called oral allergy syndrome.

Cooking destroys the proteins responsible for the allergic reaction, so the same foods that cause symptoms when eaten raw are often tolerated when cooked. Often the responsible proteins are in the skin. Buying canned varieties may also be an option, as canning destroys the proteins as well.

How do I reduce exposure to allergens?

Three common allergens found throughout the home are listed below, with tips on what you can do to reduce your exposure to them.

1. Dust mites1

  • Encase mattresses and pillows in allergen‐proof covers.
  • Wash all bedding, blankets and soft toys in very hot water weekly.
  • If possible, replace carpets with tiles, timber or linoleum.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

2. Mould1

  • Keep the bathroom well‐ventilated and dry. Install an exhaust fan if necessary.
  • Water leaks anywhere in the house need to be repaired as soon as possible.
  • Discard piles of papers, books and newspapers as they can absorb moisture and encourage mould growth.
  • Keep the fridge drip tray and door seals clean.

3. Pets1

  • Keep pets outside or at least out of the bedroom and living areas.
  • Keep your home well‐ventilated.
  • Encase mattresses and bedding with allergen‐proof covers.
  • Bath the animal frequently and clean its kennel or cage, bedding and litter box regularly.

Other tips for reducing your allergy symptoms1:

  • Carpets are a great place for allergens such as dust mites, mould and pet dander to collect or grow. If you can, replace them with floorboards, linoleum or tiles.
  • Wear a mask when doing housework and gardening as these chores will disturb dust mites, allergenic mite material and mould spores.


1 Allergy Prevention in Children 2019. ASCIA Education Resources Patient Information Accessed 18 April 2019

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