Allergy facts

According to the charity Allergy UK, around 21 million adults in the UK have at least one allergy, while half of children and under-18s have one or more allergies.

What are the most common allergies?

The most common allergies are to:

You can also be allergic to fruit, medicines such as penicillin, metals such as nickel in jewellery, and rubber.

What are the main allergy symptoms?

The most common allergy symptoms are:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • itchy eyes
  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • itchy skin rashes (dermatitis)

The type of symptoms you experience depends on what you're allergic to and how you come into contact with it. For example, you may have difficulty breathing if you inhale pollen, or develop dermatitis if you apply a lotion containing a chemical you're allergic to, or nausea and vomiting if you eat a food that you're allergic to.

What are allergic illnesses?

Some allergic symptoms are conditions in themselves. 

  • Hay fever is a runny nose, sneezing, blocked nose and itchy eyes caused by contact with pollen.
  • Eczema is itchy inflammation of the skin that is often linked to allergy. An eczema flare-up can be triggered by foods, house dust mites, pollen or pet hair.
  • Asthma is a type of breathing problem that can be triggered by allergens such as pets, house dust mite droppings in dust, pollens and moulds.
  • Allergic rhinitis is similar to hay fever but occurs all year round.
  • Urticaria is a red, itchy, bumpy rash that can occur as part of an allergic reaction, for example to foods, drugs and insect stings. 
  • Allergic eye disease is also known as allergic conjunctivitis, and is where the eyes become itchy and red after contact with an allergen such as pollen or pet hair. 

Can allergy be inherited?

Some people are more likely to develop an allergy because it runs in their family. If this is the case, you're said to be atopic or to have atopy. Boys are more likely to develop an inherited allergy than girls, as are babies who have a low birth weight.

Is an allergic reaction dangerous? 

Allergic reactions can be mild, moderate or severe. In some cases they can be life threatening. This is known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and needs prompt treatment.

Read what to do if you or someone you know has an allergic reaction.

Page last reviewed: 12/01/2014

Next review due: 12/01/2016


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

CCB said on 10 February 2013

My 7.5 year old son suffers from allergies against cats/dogs (5), mould/mildew(3), house dust (3). The ratings are from tests on a scale of 0-5. (He has been tested 3 times FOR EVERYTHING -in each case by either a GP or an allergy specialist- results were identical.) Neither I nor my husband have any allergies.
He is on a combination of medicine & prevention: Singulair tablets+Flutide inhaler+ Salbutamol inhaler & barrier bedding/ no pets/ no carpets/ no curtains in the house. We vacuum & wet wipe the house 2x per week & have a water-based air filter machine to clean the air in his room. In addition he has has had his adenoids removed to 'make room' for the vast quantity of flem that his body still produces daily.
I would like to start him on a programme of de-sensitisation, but my pediatrician tells the scope of de-sensitisation is limited to food/pollen etc. and dust i.e. it can not impact allergies to animals.

A concerned mum.

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RohitNHSAutoR19 said on 24 November 2010

Asthma Disease

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simbha said on 19 October 2010

Five years ago, for no reason at all, I became allergic to apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, almonds, carrots, coleslaw.

I am 64 and have always loved fruit. I recently had an allergy test and they found that I was allergic to birch - Nobody bothered explain why my body would think I am eating birch when I am eating apples, etc.


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Joseph Honeywood said on 29 May 2008

My mum went into hospital today for a severe alergic reaction to a pain killer.

She had a migrain so she took two pain killers and then 15 minutes later she had a fit In A&E

Im not sure what this allergy is called does anyone know

(The doctor siad something about alergy towards anti-inflaimitries)

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