With nearly 1 in 5 Australians having some form of allergy or intolerance, chances are you know or are caring for someone with at least one.

An allergy is an immune system reaction to a substance which is usually harmless (ie. food, pollen, dust mites etc) or from bites/stings and medications. Reactions usually appear within minutes and can quickly become life threatening.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the most common allergies & symptoms to look out for.

The top 10 food allergies found in Australia

  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (includes almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios,
    chestnuts and walnuts)
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Sesame
  • Lupin

Note that these are just the most common food allergens, however all foods can cause an allergic reaction and can develop at any point in your life.

Some other common allergies include:

  • Hayfever (allergies to pollen, grasses etc)
  • Animal dander (cats, dogs, horses etc)
  • Dust mites
  • Medications
  • Bee stings
  • Insect stings/bites
  • Mould

Signs of an allergic reaction

Reactions vary from person to person and can involve one or even all of the following symptoms (If multiple systems are showing symptoms it could be signs of anaphylaxis and medical aid should be sought immediately)

Obvious signs of an allergy include:

  • Hives, swelling, itchiness, redness, rash
  • Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness
  • Hoarse voice, swelling/tightness of the throat, tongue or airways
  • Nasal congestion, itchy/runny nose, sneezing, watery/itchy eyes
  • Nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea
  • Changes in skin colour, weak pulse, dizziness
  • Anxiety, headache, cramps, metallic taste in mouth

Less obvious reactions may include:

  • Colic and reflux
  • Eczema
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Failure to thrive in infants.

The main treatment for ongoing allergies is avoidance. This requires identification of the allergen, and taking steps to minimise exposure.

There are however medicated and non-medicated treatments to help alleviate symptoms if exposure occurs.

These include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays
  • Saline nasal sprays
  • Eye drops
  • Adrenaline/Epinephrine (Epi-Pen/Anapen)
  • Immunotheraphy


For a tailored approach in treatment and management of allergy symptoms you should speak with your GP or specialist.


This information has been provided as a guide only. Mistreatment of allergies can cause serious health problems so if you suspect an allergy, medical guidance should be sought out for diagnosis and management.