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Allergies: causes, symptoms and facts

Allergy Awareness Week

If you have an allergy to a particular substance such as pollen, food, pet hair or wood/cement dust, you’re most likely suffering from symptoms such as a runny nose, watery eyes and a sore throat, or you may develop rhinitis. An allergic reaction can vary from person to person and they can even be life threatening. Read our article to understand allergies better:

What is an allergy?

An allergy is a reaction, usually an immune response, your body has to a particular food or substance. You can be allergic to almost anything, but the most common substances that your body can become hypersensitive to are foods, pollen, fur, or dust. Allergies are more common in children but adults can get them too.

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

The severity of the symptoms of an allergic reaction vary from person to person:

Hay fever

Did you know that one in five people will be affected by hay fever in their lifetime?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to airborne pollen caused by trees in the spring, grass in the summer and weeds in the autumn. If you suffer with itchy eyes, a streaming nose and an irritated throat when the warmer season arrives, you may have hay fever. Again, the severity of your symptoms will depend on if you have asthma or how sensitive your body is to the pollen. Read our hay fever survival guide that’s not to be sniffed at, to learn more.

Allergic Rhinitis

Rhinitis is inflammation in the inside of your nose which causes congestion and the production of mucus. This can be of allergic and non-allergic origin. Our Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Mr Robert Hone explains this condition and how we can diagnose and treat it:

“We don't really see hay fever in the winter, but generally it's a part of an allergic sinusitis or rhinitis, which is where an allergy is causing your symptoms - and you can get that all year round.

“With sinus problems, you will potentially have a reduction to your smell, often taste seems to be preserved, you may experience sneezing and itching and you may get watering eyes. If you have seasons of itching of your nose, classically that is an allergic type of reaction or an allergy that's causing the inflammation.”


“As part of our ear nose, and throat service (ENT), we can do allergy tests to diagnose you. We often used to do skin prick tests, but we tend to prefer blood tests now to look at your total Immunoglobulin (IG) level which is a marker of how much of an allergic reaction is occurring at that time. We generally test for house dust mites - which obviously will cause an allergy all year round - grass, trees, mould as well as certain foodstuffs or pets. We may also do a diagnostic endoscopy.”


“If it's allergic rhinitis, we recommend avoiding the allergy trigger and we’ll treat you with nasal drops and sprays to begin with. For example:

  • Option one: Sterimar is a saltwater spray which can be bought in the chemist and it helps lubricate the nose by washing out the allergens
  • Option two: Sinus rinse is a bottle of salty water that you spray up your nose to wash the pollens and irritants out
  • Option three: Targeted antibiotics are important when you have an infection which is non-allergic, as they treat a number of different bacteria and tend to be for fairly long courses of up to four weeks, sometimes even longer”

Five facts about allergies

1. In recent research, around 49% of people in the UK reported suffering with hay fever symptoms (Allergy UK / Kleenex®, 2020)

2. In the UK, 1-2% of adults have a food allergy. This, combined with the 5-8% of children with a food allergy, equates to about 2 million people. (Food Standards Agency 2016)

3. Allergies are more common in children but adults can develop allergies to substances they were not previously allergic to

4. The most common allergies include grass and tree pollen (hay fever), dust mites, medicines and food such as nuts, eggs and shellfish

5. Allergies are thought to affect more than one in four people in the UK at some point in their lives

Speak to our ear, nose and throat (ENT) experts

At Benenden Hospital, our experienced Consultants offer a wide range of self-pay treatments for the ear, nose and throat. Our ENT service provides the latest treatments in modern facilities to help you to get a diagnosis and to ease the symptoms of your allergies.

To ease the symptoms of your allergies or to seek a diagnosis, find out more about the ENT treatments we offer. To book, complete our online enquiry form or contact our Private Patient Team via Livechat or on 01580 363158.

Published on 26 April 2023