Understanding allergies

Runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing – it could be allergies, but what are you allergic to? Here’s a look at the most common allergic rhinitis symptoms and treatments to help you find relief.

What are allergies?

Allergies, or allergic reactions, occur when your immune system attacks a substance your body views as foreign. Substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens.

Some of the most common allergens are pet dander (proteins in the animal’s dried flakes of skin), dust, mould and pollen.

These allergens cause a range of allergic symptoms, like:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Blocked nose
  • Coughing
  • Red, itchy and watering eyes
  • Skin rashes

It’s important to treat your allergy symptoms as soon as you notice them, because untreated allergy symptoms can have a big impact on your quality of life causing sleep disturbance, daytime tiredness, impairment of work or school performance and impacting on daily activities, sport and leisure.

Pet dander


Unfortunately for cat lovers, cat allergies are relatively common. But it’s not cat fur that causes an allergic reaction – it’s the dander. People who are allergic to cats can also develop a reaction when they encounter cat saliva and urine.


Did you know ‘hypoallergenic dogs’ are a myth? Even though some breeds may not shed, like cats, the dander, saliva and urine of your furry friend may be triggering your allergy symptoms.

Tips to help prevent cat and dog allergies include not letting your pet sleep on your bed (or keeping them out of your room altogether), washing your bedding regularly in hot water, using air filters inside, and regular vacuuming.

Dust Mites

Dust allergy, also known as dust mite allergy, is an allergic reaction to dust mites.

Dust mites are microscopic insects that feed on dead skin cells and live inside household beds, furniture and carpet. To prevent your dust allergy from getting worse at home, vacuum regularly, use an air filter, wash your bedding regularly in hot water above 60°C and keep humidity low.


When mould spreads, it produces tiny particles called spores. Spores travel in the air, and we can inhale them into our nose and lungs if there’s mould nearby.

If you’re allergic to mould, you may develop allergy symptoms when you breathe in mould spores.

To help prevent your mould allergy from getting worse at home, clean any signs of mould regularly, keep humidity low and use an allergy-friendly air conditioner.


Pollen is a fine powdery substance produced by flowers, grass, weeds and trees.

Plants produce pollen to fertilise other plants of the same species. Wind and insects move pollen around in the air. Being allergic to pollen is also commonly known as hayfever.

If you have a pollen allergy, you may only be allergic to a specific pollen type, not all pollen, so no need to panic! Your pollen allergy symptoms may develop in some seasons when that specific pollen is in the air and not all year round.

It can be difficult to avoid pollen, but the following tips may help: check the pollen forecast (https://www.pollenforecast.com.au/) in your area and try to remain indoors on high pollen days (particularly on windy days), keep windows closed, wear a mask when you’re doing outside chores, wear sunglasses, dry your washing inside or in a tumble dryer instead of outside and after spending time outside be sure to either take a shower to remove sticky pollen from your skin and hair or at least wash your face and hands, remove your shoes and change your clothes.

Allergy treatment options

Allergies can be frustrating – not only as they bring irritating symptoms, but also because they can impact activities you love. For example, animal lovers who are allergic to pets may need to avoid them altogether, and outdoor enthusiasts may need to stay inside when there’s a high pollen count. But there are ways to limit your exposure and ease symptoms.

Choosing the right treatment for your allergy depends on several factors – including the type of allergen and your symptoms.

Limiting your exposure to your allergy triggers is an important step in treating allergies successfully. Get rid of mould, set up pet-free areas in the home, stay indoors when there is a lot of pollen in the air, reduce the number of dust mites in the house.

Keep your allergy treatments handy. Depending on the allergy symptoms you may be experiencing, some of the treatment options you may talk to your pharmacist or doctor about are:

  • Intranasal corticosteroids – Nasal sprays that can reduce the inflammation that cause uncomfortable allergic rhinitis symptoms. These medications can also help to prevent symptoms before they start.
  • Antihistamines – Relieve symptoms of sneezing, itching and runny nose by blocking the effects of histamine in your body (the substance your body releases when you encounter an allergen).
  • Nasal decongestants –Medicines that reduces swollen nasal tissues to relieve symptoms of congestion.These medicines should be used for short term relief only.
  • Intranasal Saline - Saline nasal sprays or washes can help to clear allergens and mucus from the nasal passages to help reduce allergy symptoms.

If you’re experiencing any allergy symptoms, speak to your healthcare professional for an allergy test and treatment plan. Some allergies can be serious and get worse over time, so it’s important to monitor your symptoms and check if your treatments are helping.

The materials on this site have been prepared for general information purposes only. They are not intended to be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.