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Inhalant Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Allergies are caused by your body reacting to substances in the air that you breathe.

Although airborne allergies are caused by harmless things, your body identifies these substances as “foreign.” This leads to your allergy symptoms—sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and more.

Inhalant allergies commonly include indoor allergens (such as dust mites) and outdoor allergens (such as pollen and mold).

Common Inhalant Allergies

Inhalant allergies can be caused by a variety of airborne substances, both inside and outside. Seasonal allergies, also called “hay fever,” are one of the most common types of inhalant allergies. Air pollution can also trigger symptoms.

Pollen (grass, trees, weeds)

Mold spores





Car emissions

Factory emissions


Many inhalant allergies are triggered by indoor allergens and irritants, such as:2

Animal dander (such as dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs)

Dust mites



Household chemicals

Candle smoke

Fireplace smoke

Cockroach saliva or excrement

Cigarette smoke

Fuel-burning heaters

Inhalant allergies can also be triggered by volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.3 These chemicals, which are released as gases, can be found in a variety of household products, including:

Cleaning supplies

Bug repellant

Car products


Dry-cleaned clothing


Crafting supplies



Paint stripper


Inhalant allergies cause a similar set of symptoms, regardless of the particular allergen that triggers them. Common symptoms include:4

Runny nose


Itchy eyes, nose, mouth, and throat

Sinus pressure


Loss of smell




Pressure/fullness in the ears

Swollen, red, watery eyes

 Symptoms of Allergies


A variety of treatments are available for inhalant allergies, even if you don’t know your specific trigger. Both medications and home remedies can be beneficial in reducing your symptoms.

Common medications for allergies include:5

Antihistamines: These medications block chemicals, called histamines, that are released from your immune system and cause your symptoms.

Decongestants: Decongestants decrease swelling in your nasal passages and thin mucus.

Corticosteroids: More severe allergy symptoms might require steroid anti-inflammatory medications.

Allergy shots: Small doses of your allergen can be introduced to your body over time to reduce your sensitivity. This can be particularly helpful for inhalant allergies to dust, pollen, and pet dander.6

Sublingual immunotherapy: Small doses of allergens can also be given under the tongue for allergies to dust mites, ragweed, and grass.

While home remedies won’t “fix” your allergies, they can improve your quality of life when you’re living with inhalant allergy symptoms. Home remedies to consider include:7

Keep it clean: Dust and vacuum at least once a week to remove inhalant allergens from your home. Use a HEPA filter or a double vacuum bag to keep dust from re-entering the air. Cleaning temporarily increases the amount of allergens in the air, so consider wearing a mask if you’re particularly sensitive.

Choose your furnishings: Allergens tend to collect in rugs and on fabric furniture. If you have the option, choose floors that have a hard surface, buy leather or vinyl furniture, and place area rugs that can be washed.

Chuck the pillows: Although they might be cute, accent pillows can be a magnet for allergens.

Reduce smoke: Avoid smoking cigarettes indoors. Use alternate forms of heat rather than a wood-burning fireplace or stove, which can also produce smoke.

Avoid fragrances: Don’t burn candles or use other types of air fresheners in your home if you’ve got inhalant allergies.

Don’t track it in: Remove jackets and shoes at the door to reduce the amount of outdoor allergens that get into your home.

Contain your pet: Limit where your pet goes in your home to reduce the spread of pet dander. Keep your pet out of your bedroom where dander can collect on your bedsheets.

 The 7 Best Air Purifiers for Allergies

Link Between Eczema and Inhalant Allergies

If you’ve got eczema (also called atopic dermatitis), you might also be at higher risk of developing inhalant allergies, as well as other types of allergies. The exact reason for this is not well understood, but it’s so common that it has been named the “atopic march.”8

The atopic march describes a progression of allergies that often occurs from childhood into adulthood. Infants might start out with eczema, then develop food allergies as they move into childhood. Later in life, they might also develop inhalant allergies, seasonal allergies, and possibly asthma.

Genetics have been linked to the atopic march. A skin defect involving the protein filaggrin allows allergens to more easily enter the body, making a person more prone to allergies. Research has shown that people with this skin defect are also at higher risk of having an inhalant allergy, particularly to pollen.8