An allergy occurs when your body’s immune system sees a certain substance as harmful. It reacts by causing an allergic reaction. Substances that cause allergic reactions are allergens. There are many types of allergies. Some allergies are seasonal and others are year-round. Some allergies may be life-long.
Allergic conjunctivitis can be seasonal or all year round (perennial). For most of those affected seasonally the symptoms are part of their hay fever and the cause is the same – grass, tree, and weed or shrub pollen.
Symptoms of allergic eye disease
- Itching eyes
- Burning, watering and redness of the eyes
- Puffiness of the eyelids
Perennial allergic conjunctivitis is usually a reaction to house dust mite or pets in the indoor environment. For more information on diagnosis and management of allergic eye disease please see our Factsheet below and our hay Fever and allergic rhinitis section.
The do’s and don’ts while you have allergic conjunctivitis
- Don’t wear your contact lenses (if the symptoms are severe or if your cornea is affected), until your eyes are better and after 24 hours after the last dose of ointment/drops (if they were required)
- Do not rub your eyes (this will make the symptoms worse)
- Do not wear eye make-up
- Wash hands regularly with warm soapy water
- Bathing the eyes with a flannel soaked in cold water or with an over-the-counter ‘eye bath’ may ease symptoms
- Avoid the cause of the allergy (if possible)
- Wear sunglasses or glasses as they may help to shield your eyes from pollen
Latex allergy in its most common form often creates irritant contact dermatitis. This is often seen in association with wearing rubber gloves, and can create eczema symptoms; itching, redness and scaling.
If you’re allergic to latex, you’re likely to have symptoms after touching latex rubber products, such as gloves or balloons. You can also have symptoms if you breathe in latex particles that are released into the air when someone removes latex gloves.
Latex allergy can occur in these ways:
- Direct contact. The most common cause of latex allergy involves touching latex-containing products, including latex gloves, condoms and balloons.
- Inhalation. Latex products, especially gloves, release latex particles, which you can breathe in when they become airborne. The amount of airborne latex from gloves differs greatly depending on the brand of glove used.
Latex allergy symptoms range from mild to severe. A reaction depends on how sensitive you are to latex and the amount of latex you touch or inhale. Your reaction can become worse with each additional latex exposure.
Symptoms of a latex allergy
Latex allergy can cause symptoms from both contact, and inhalation of the rubber powder that can be present on latex products. Symptoms include:
- Severe itching, urticarial and nettle rash
- Dizziness/light headedness
- Respiratory problems if inhaled
Some more serious symptoms may also develop, and although incredibly rare, some deaths have been recorded from latex allergy.
Allergy testing for a latex allergy
Specific IgE blood tests (previously known as RAST tests) or skin prick tests are used to confirm or exclude the presence of IgE antibodies in the blood or skin and can be used to diagnose immediate (IgE) mediated allergy. This form of allergy testing is not useful in diagnosing for irritant or allergic contact dermatitis. Patch testing is used to confirm or exclude contact allergic dermatitis.
You may be referred to a skin specialist (dermatologist) for patch testing or a doctor specialising in allergy (allergist/immunologist) for skin prick or blood specific IgE testing, depending on the nature of your symptoms.
If you have a latex allergy or contact allergy it is important that you communicate your allergy when you visit healthcare professionals.
Do lateral flow tests contain latex?
The Department for Education has confirmed that the swabs contained in the Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test kits (Lateral Flow tests) that are being distributed in educational settings are latex free.
Anyone can become allergic to bee stings, wasp stings, or other insect bites but those most likely to become bee allergic are bee keepers. Those who work in gardens are also more susceptible to having a reaction to insect bites. However, it is unusual to be allergic to both wasps and bees.
Symptoms of a venom allergy
Localised reactions: Swelling at the site of the insect bite, which can be more than 10 cm in diameter and last for more than 24 hours. The rest of the limb may be involved but no generalised symptoms are present. These reactions are more common in children than in adults.
Mild systemic reactions: These reactions are characterised by skin swelling and hives in an area of skin remote from the insect bite. Children experiencing these reactions are not thought to be significantly at risk of future life-threatening reactions compared to others. However, in older children and adults, such reactions are considered to be a risk factor for a future severe reaction.
Moderate / severe systemic reactions (anaphylaxis): Any or all of the following symptoms may be present:
- Swelling of throat and mouth
- Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
- Difficulty in breathing – due to severe asthma or throat swelling
- Hives anywhere on the body, especially large hives
- Generalised flushing of the skin
- Abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting
- Sudden feeling of weakness (drop in blood pressure)
- Collapse and unconsciousness
Anaphylaxis is a life threatening severe allergic reaction. It is a medical emergency, and requires immediate treatment. Visit our page on anaphylaxis to find out more.
Wasp and bee stings can occasionally cause serious life-threatening allergic reactions so it is important to know the symptoms to look out for and what to do.
It is not unusual to experience allergy-like symptoms following ingestion of alcohol. The reaction can be very specific, for example to a certain type of wine, or can be caused by different types of alcohol.
More commonly, symptoms of alcohol allergy are caused by an intolerance to alcohol, to the food on which the drink is based (e.g. grapes for wine, grains for whisky etc.), or to another substance in the drink.
Histamines and yeasts in alcohol
This is present in many alcoholic drinks, particularly red wines, and can cause headache, flushing, nasal symptoms, gut symptoms or asthma. Some people are particularly intolerant of histamine because of a deficiency in the breakdown and elimination of histamine from the body. True allergy to alcohol is very rare but yeasts are the most probable cause of a reaction to alcohol.
Yeasts are a possible cause of a true allergic reaction to alcoholic drinks. However, studies show that there are only low levels of yeast allergens present in alcoholic drinks.
For more information on diagnosis and management of an allergy to alcohol please see our Factsheet above.
Nickel allergy (a type of metal allergy) commonly develops following ear piercing and the use of metal jewellery. Nickel allergy is more common in people with hand dermatitis although the reason for this is not always clear.
Orthopaedic pins and plates may result in eczema affecting the overlying skin. The role of nickel in joint replacements is unclear, although typically if there is concern, a titanium prosthesis can be used.
European Union legislation currently limits the amount of nickel released from metals in prolonged contact with the skin and it is hoped that nickel allergy may become less common in the future.
Pure gold (18 carat or more), solid silver and platinum are usually safe alternatives for jewellery.