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To “protect” the body from the allergen, the immune system releases specialized chemicals like histamine. Histamine triggers your body to push the allergens out, using your eyes, nose, and mouth as exit routes. This process is also responsible for those uncomfortable symptoms that accompany allergies, including watery eyes and nose, congestion, and inflammation.2   

Here, we’ll cover the basics of allergies including some common causes and how to find relief when you need it most.

Common Causes of Allergies

There are several different causes of allergies, but they can be broken down into two groups: seasonal allergies and year-round. Seasonal allergies are appropriately named—these are often associated with allergens that change with the seasons, like pollen in the spring. On the other hand, year-round allergies are present at any time of year—such as dust or dander.

To figure out when you’ll need relief most, check out our seasonal vs. year-round allergy guide.

Close up image of a flower with pink petals and an orange center.

Pollen Allergies

Pollen is one of the most common causes of seasonal allergies.3 The main culprits for spreading pollen in the spring are trees, weeds such as ragweed and grasses—this is because the pollen is dry and lightweight, which can easily be blown in the wind. As it makes contact with your nose, eyes, and lungs, you may develop common pollen allergy symptoms such as runny nose and itchy, watery eyes.

Pollen allergies will differ depending on what area of the United States you live in. They tend to be challenging in cities in the Northeast and Midwest, while states on the West Coast are easier on those with allergies. During the spring and summer, many places will also report daily pollen counts to help you predict days that may be better or worse for allergies. Keeping an eye on these reports can help you better manage your symptoms.3


image of a child's bedroom with a pink carpet.

Dust Allergies

Dust is everywhere, especially in our houses—and when we try to dust or sweep, it may even make matters worse! As dust enters the air, it makes it easier to breathe in, which can trigger allergies in some people. Dust allergies are not only caused by dust itself but other triggers like dust mites and mold.5

Dust mites are tiny creatures that feed off dust and moisture in your home—in fact, they’re the most common cause of dust allergies in the home. Dust mites can be found in carpeting, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows. Since they’re too small to see, oftentimes you won’t notice any visible dirt or dust.5

Mold can also be found in the home—but not to worry! Tiny mold particles are commonly found in household dust, especially in moist areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

Looking for ways to keep your house allergy-friendly? Try these 10 household tips for managing indoor allergies.


Mother and daughter sitting in a living room with their dog wrapping presents

Pet Allergies

In the United States, roughly 3 out of 10 people are allergic to cats or dogs. Interestingly, cat allergies are almost twice as common as dog allergies.4 Contrary to popular belief, pet allergies are not caused by a reaction to hair or fur. Instead, your body’s immune system may have a reaction to proteins in your pet’s saliva, urine, or dander (dead skin cells).

While it may seem like hair is the cause, it can harbor these other allergens—along with dust or pollen. Dander from cats and dogs can be anywhere—in the air, on furniture, clinging to walls, clothing, and more.4

For tips and tricks on how to manage allergies from your furry friend and keep dander to a minimum, read our guide.


Allergy Symptoms

If you’ve experienced allergies, you know how uncomfortable they can be. Allergy symptoms differ depending on whether the allergen was airborne or made contact with your skin. Common allergy symptoms include:6

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sinus pressure
  • Itchy throat
  • Itchy nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Headache

Allergies can cause these symptoms, but so can other things. Since many illnesses can irritate the nose and throat, it’s easy to mistake allergies for another problem that has similar symptoms. For example, colds and viral infections can produce symptoms similar to those caused by allergies. However, there are some key differences. For example, allergies do not cause a fever or aches and pains. Colds and viral infections rarely cause itchy, watery eyes.7

You can find out if your symptoms are more likely from allergies or a cold by answering some questions.


Are Allergies Contagious?

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to an allergen—they are not contagious and cannot be spread. However, illnesses such as the cold or flu can be spread because they are caused by viruses. These viruses travel through the air or are transmitted on surfaces like doorknobs and light switches.7

How to Stop Allergies

Need relief from itching, sneezing, and congestion? Allergy medicines like BENADRYL® can help attack those pesky symptoms at the source. That’s because BENADRYL® is an antihistamine, which works by fighting the effects of histamine in the body to alleviate allergies.

For adults looking for relief from common allergy symptoms, try BENADRYL® Allergy ULTRATABS® or BENADRYL® Allergy LIQUI-GELS®. In case of congestion, try BENADRYL® Allergy Plus Congestion for extra sinus relief.

For little ones affected by allergies, try Children’s BENADRYL® Allergy Liquid or Children’s BENADRYL® Chewables. Looking for a dye-free alternative? Children’s BENADRYL® Dye-Free Allergy Liquid is just the thing. Congestion got them down? Try Children’s BENADRYL® Allergy Plus Congestion to help get rid of that stuffy nose.

Related Articles




  1. Cleveland Clinic. Allergy Overview. November 30, 2020. Accessed from: 
  2. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Allergy Symptoms. Accessed from: 
  3. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Pollen Allergy. February 2022. Accessed from: 
  4. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats? October 2015. Accessed from:
  5. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. February 2, 2018. Accessed from: 
  6. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Allergy Symptoms. Accessed from:
  7. Mayo Clinic. Cold or allergy: Which is it? February 17, 2022. Accessed from: