Allergy at a glance

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Allergy facts

  • Australia has one of the highest incidences of allergy in the world.
  • Of the over 2 million people in Australia who have asthma, about 80% of these have allergies like hayfever.
  • Allergy may run in families. ‘Atopy’ is the genetic or inherited tendency to develop allergic diseases.
  • Your doctor can help you identify possible allergic triggers and order or perform allergy tests. The two main allergy tests are skin prick tests, and blood tests for serum specific IgE (Immunoglobin E). These were previously known as RAST tests (RadioAllergoSorbent Test)

What is allergy?

Allergies occur when your body’s immune system reacts to substances in the environment that do not bother most people. These substances are known as allergens.

If you are exposed to an allergen that you are sensitive to, you can develop an allergic reaction that leads to redness and swelling, which can be irritating or uncomfortable.

Allergic reactions can affect your:

  • Nose and/or eyes – hay fever (allergic rhinitis and/ or conjunctivitis)
  • Skin – eczema or hives
  • Lungs – asthma

How can allergies be minimised?

Allergies can make life rather miserable for millions of Australians – particularly in certain periods of the year like Spring.

The best way to manage allergy is to avoid the allergens, which can often be a challenge as allergens are all around us… pollens from grass and weeds, cigarette smoke, or chemicals in cleaners, and other household products.

For information on avoiding these triggers, please see our other fact sheets on; house dust mites, mould, pets, pollen and smoking.

Allergy testing

Your doctor will be able to help you to identify possible allergic triggers and order or perform allergy tests.

Infant feeding

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) advises:

  • Do not exclude foods that are potential allergy triggers (e.g. peanuts) from your diet while pregnant as there is no evidence that this will prevent allergies in your baby.
  • Introduce solid foods from around 4-6 months while still breastfeeding.
  • Give one new food at a time; if a food is tolerated, continue to give this as a part of a varied diet. If there is any reaction to any food, you should avoid that food until you can see a doctor about a possible food allergy.