Manage your NHS repeat prescriptions online with prescription tracking, re-order reminders & click & collect12


Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to something that’s usually harmless, for instance, animal fur or pollen. Allergies can range from mild to severe, and symptoms can include; a runny nose or sneezing, coughing, wheezing or breathlessness, itchy skin or a raised rash, feeling or being sick, diarrhoea, swollen eyes, lips, mouth or throat, pain or tenderness around your cheeks, eyes or forehead. 

A severe allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis, which is covered in more detail in the section below called ‘What is anaphylaxis?’. 

We’ll talk you through different types of allergies, tips for living well with allergies and some of the frequently asked questions you might have about allergies.



There can be many different triggers for allergies. Here, we talk you through some of the most common allergies, including signs and symptoms, and how to manage them.

Hayfever is an allergic reaction to pollen, which happens when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat. In the UK, hayfever is most common between late March and September, when the pollen count is at its highest. 

Symptoms of hay fever can include:

• Sneezing and coughing

• A runny or blocked nose

• Itchy, red or watery eyes

• An itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears

• Headache

• Earache

• Feeling tired

Read about how you can manage hay fever symptoms here.

House dust mites are microscopic creatures, around a quarter of a millimetre long, which can be found in bedding, carpets, soft furnishings and clothing. People who react to house dust mites are usually reacting to proteins in their droppings, rather than to the actual mites. 

Symptoms of a dust mite allergy can include: 

• A runny or blocked nose

• Itchy, red or watering eyes

• Wheezing

• Worsening of asthma symptoms 

If you’re allergic to house dust mites, one way of managing your symptoms is to try and reduce the number of dust mites, and therefore the number of droppings in your environment. This can include measures such as swapping carpets for hardwood floors or using mite-proof covers for mattresses, duvets and pillows and washing the covers regularly. 

Eye drops, nasal sprays and antihistamine tablets can also prove helpful in relieving symptoms. You can browse the range of allergy products available here.

It’s also possible to develop allergic conjunctivitis (allergic eye disease) in response to allergens.

Symptoms can include:

• Itching, burning, watering and redness of the eye

• Puffiness of the eyelid

This is a common symptom of hay fever, but also of other allergies like house dust mites or pet allergies. Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis can include:

• Avoiding the allergen

• Eye drops 

Skin allergies are when you have an allergic reaction which causes skin symptoms. One type of skin allergy is contact dermatitis, a form of eczema triggered by contact with a specific substance. 

Symptoms of contact dermatitis can include: 

• Itchy, blistered, dry and cracked skin

• Lighter skin may become red, and darker skin may become dark brown, purple or grey 

Symptoms usually start within a few hours or days of exposure to the allergen or irritant, and most commonly occur on the face or hands.

There are two types of contact dermatitis:

Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when a substance directly damages the outer layer of the skin. You’re at an increased risk of this if you also have atopic eczema. Common irritants include soaps and detergents, household chemicals and many plants. 

Allergic contact dermatitis
occurs when your immune system reacts to a substance in a way that affects your skin. Common allergens include cosmetic ingredients and metals, like nickel. 

If you think you’re experiencing contact dermatitis, speak to your local Boots pharmacist or GP, or you can access prescription contact dermatitis treatment through Boots Online Doctor.*

Treatments for contact dermatitis often include:

• Avoiding the irritant or allergens 

• Emollients

Topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone or steroid tablets

Another type of allergic skin reaction is hives (urticaria). The main symptom of hives is an itchy rash, which can:

• Be raised bumps or patches, in different shapes and sizes

• Appear anywhere on the body, either in one area or spread across the whole body

• Feel itchy, sting or burn

• Appear pink or red on white skin, and be harder to see on brown and black skin 

Common triggers for hives include eating certain foods, bites or stings, chemicals and latex.

Speak to your local Boots pharmacist or GP if you’re experiencing hives. Treatment for hives can include:

• Avoiding the allergen 


• Menthol cream, available from your GP

• Steroid tablets, available from your GP

A food allergy is where your body has a reaction to certain foods. 

Symptoms of food allergies include: 

• Feeling dizzy or lightheaded 

• Itchy skin or a raised rash

• Coughing, noisy breathing or a hoarse voice

• Sneezing or an itchy, runny or blocked nose

• Feeling or being sick

• Stomach pain

• Diarrhoea

These symptoms may occur immediately after eating the food, or days later. If you experience any of the following more severe symptoms, call 999 for an ambulance as they can be an indicator of anaphylaxis:

• Wheezing

• Tightness in your chest or throat

• Trouble breathing or talking

• Swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat

• A skin rash that includes itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin

The most common foods that people experience allergic reactions to include cows’ milk, eggs, peanuts, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, tree nuts like walnuts or almonds, shellfish and wheat. However, it’s possible to be allergic to any type of food.

If you think you have a food allergy, speak to your GP. They may refer you to a specialist for tests if they think you have a food allergy. You might also be asked to keep a food and symptoms diary to help identify what’s causing your allergic reaction.

If you do have a food allergy, you’ll have to avoid the food you’re allergic to. For many common allergies like dairy or gluten, free-from ranges are now available. 

Your doctor will give you medicines to help you manage symptoms or for use in an emergency. This can include antihistamines for milder reactions, and adrenaline auto-injectors, for use in an emergency if you have a severe reaction (anaphylaxis). 

Anyone who suffers from severe allergies should always carry two adrenaline auto-injectors with them. If you’ve previously been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector and taught how to use it, you may be able to access anaphylaxis treatment through Boots Online Doctor.

Food allergies are different to food intolerances (also known as food sensitivities). Food intolerances are where you have difficulty digesting certain foods. Eating these foods can make you feel unwell, but it’s not usually serious. 

Common symptoms of food intolerances include:

• Diarrhoea

• Bloating

• Flatulence 

• Stomach pain 

Animal allergies occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies proteins found in pet saliva, urine or dander (shed skin particles) as a harmful substance. This often occurs with household pets (like cats, dogs or rodents) but can also occur with other animals, including farm animals, birds and reptiles. 

Dander is spread when an animal grooms itself, leading people to assume that its fur or feathers cause the allergy, however, dander is more often the cause. Some people may refer to pets that don’t shed as hypo-allergenic (unlikely to cause an allergic reaction), however, no animal is truly hypo-allergenic. Animal fur can be a carrier for other airborne allergens such as pollen or dust.  

Symptoms of an animal allergy can include:

• Sneezing

• Breathing difficulties including wheezing or coughing

• Watery, red, itchy eyes

• Skin rashes or hives

• Eczema flare-ups

• Anaphylaxis

These symptoms can come on immediately after exposure or may have a delayed response. If you suspect an animal allergy, speak to your GP, especially if you have other allergic conditions such as asthma or eczema. 

In most instances, the best way of managing your allergy is to avoid the animal as much as possible. Stopping the animal from having contact with soft furnishings, regular cleaning and washing hands after coming into contact with the animal or items the animal may have touched can also help. 

Where it’s not possible to prevent contact with the animal, your doctor may suggest antihistamine medications, allergy barrier nasal sprayseye drops or other methods to manage your symptoms. You can browse the full range of allergy treatments here.

Your GP will decide whether you should carry emergency medication (adrenaline) to treat a severe allergic reaction. If you’ve previously been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector (EpiPen) and taught how to use it, you may be able to access anaphylaxis treatment through Boots Online Doctor.

It’s also possible to develop allergic conjunctivitis  (allergic eye disease) in response to allergens.

Symptoms can include:

• Itching, burning, watering and redness of the eye

• Puffiness of the eyelid

This is a common symptom of hayfever and other allergies like house dust mites or pet allergies. 

Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis can include:

• Avoiding the allergen

• Boots Eye drops Infected Eyes 1% w/w Eye Ointment Chloramphenicol

Insect bites and stings are common and are not usually serious. Insect bites normally cause a small, red lump on the skin which may be itchy and painful. However, some people may have a mild allergic reaction to bites or stings, where a larger area of skin around the bite or sting becomes swollen, painful and red. This normally gets better within a week.

For milder reactions, you can speak to your local Boots pharmacist who will be able to recommend the most suitable medications to help. This might include hydrocortisone creams and antihistamine creams such as Boots bite and sting relief antihistamine cream or antihistamine tablets. You can view the full range of allergy treatments here.

It’s also a good idea to avoid bites or stings where possible. This can include ensuring any pets in your home have been treated with the appropriate flea treatments, covering exposed skin by wearing long sleeves and trousers in places where you’re more likely to encounter bites or stings and using insect repellents

Sometimes a more severe allergic reaction can occur, leading to symptoms including:

• Breathing difficulties

• A swollen face or mouth

• Dizziness 

If a severe reaction occurs, dial 999 for an ambulance immediately. Learn more about how to treat insect bites and stings here

A latex allergy occurs when you have an immediate reaction to the proteins found in natural rubber latex when it comes into contact with your skin. 

Symptoms of an immediate latex allergy can include: 

• Itching

• A red, raised rash 

• Swelling, often around the eyes and lips 

• Breathing problems, like coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing 

These symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes of exposure and resolve within 24 hours. 

Natural rubber is used to make products like rubber gloves, and the chemicals that are added during the manufacturing process may also cause allergic contact dermatitis in some people, which is usually a delayed rather than an immediate reaction. 

Symptoms of a delayed rubber chemical allergy usually occur between 48 and 72 hours after exposure and last for several days. Symptoms can include:

• Itching

• Redness

• Swelling

• Weeping or oozing 

• Blistering 

If you think you may have an immediate latex allergy or a delayed rubber chemical allergy, speak to your GP. 

If you have a latex allergy, you’ll need to ensure that you avoid contact with products containing latex. In many instances, latex-free alternatives are available including latex-free gloves and latex-free condoms.

Your doctor may prescribe antihistamine medications to manage mild reactions and will decide if you should carry emergency medication (adrenaline) to treat a severe allergic reaction. If you’ve previously been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector (EpiPen) and taught how to use it, you may be able to access anaphylaxis treatment through Boots Online Doctor.*

If you work in an industry where you’re likely to come into contact with latex products, for instance, healthcare professionals or hairdressers, it’s important to let your employer know that you’ll need to use latex-free alternatives. 

Latex is also often found in many healthcare products, for instance, wound dressings or electrode pads, so it’s also important that you let healthcare professionals know that you have an allergy when you visit them. This is also true of any service that may use latex gloves or other products containing latex, for instance, hairdressers or beauticians.

Mould allergies are caused by a reaction to the spores (tiny particles) that are released by mould into the air. 

Mould occurs in damp, musty environments. Outside, this can include compost heaps and garden sheds. Indoors, damp environments (like kitchens or bathrooms), fridges and the soil of house plants can be common sources of mould spores. 

Contact with mould spores in people who are allergic can cause symptoms including:

• Sneezing

• Wheezing

• Itchy or watery eyes 

• Runny nose 

• Worsening of asthma symptoms

Minimising exposure to mould is one of the best ways of managing your allergy. This can include cleaning areas like kitchens and bathrooms, ensuring there is plenty of ventilation in your home, and opening windows when possible. 

Eye drops, nasal sprays and antihistamine tablets can also prove helpful in relieving symptoms. You can browse the range of allergy products available here.

There are a number of allergies that are more likely to affect you or your family in the home, for instance mould, house dust mite and pet allergies.

Here are some top tips for managing allergies in the home that are relevant for many different types of allergies.

1. Regular cleaning: whether you experience hay fever, house dust mite, pet or mould allergies, keeping your home clean can help you manage your exposure to the allergens. Using a vacuum with a high HEPA filter which helps to prevent allergens escaping once you’ve used it can help, and ensuring you vacuum soft furnishings and wash covers is also beneficial.

2. Consider ventilation: warm, moist environments can encourage mould growth, as well as house dust mites, so think about opening windows to help air flow and using extractor fans in areas like kitchens and bathrooms. However, if you suffer from hay fever, opening windows when the pollen count is high isn’t recommended.

3. Air purification system: these can help with a number of airborne allergens but can be particularly useful in the case of hay fever where it’s not helpful to open windows to improve ventilation. Air purification systems can help to capture allergens, dust and bacteria to help reduce allergy symptoms.

4. Think about your flooring: hard wood floors are generally better than carpets or rugs, as allergens are more easily removed from hard wood floors. If it’s not possible to switch to wooden floors, vacuum carpets and rugs daily and steam clean monthly.

5. Choose allergy-appropriate products: this can include mattresses and covers for soft furnishings that are designed to help reduce allergy symptoms.

6. Make sure you have medication to hand: whether this is antihistamines for milder allergies, topical products for bites or stings or an adrenaline auto-injector for more severe reactions, make sure you know exactly where your medication is within the home and ensure it’s easy and quick to access when needed. If you use adrenaline auto-injectors, you should ensure you have at least two with you at all times and that you’ve been shown how to use them safely. Anyone who suffers from severe allergies should always carry two adrenaline auto-injectors with them. If you’ve previously been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector and taught how to use it, you may be able to access anaphylaxis treatment through Boots Online Doctor.*

Childhood allergies are now fairly common; in the UK, 40% of children have been diagnosed with an allergy. 

The most common childhood allergies are:
• Food allergies, you can read more about food allergies in children and babies here

• Eczema 

• Asthma 

• Hay fever

Childhood allergies can be upsetting for children and their parents, but support is available. If you suspect your child has an allergy, speak to your GP who will be able to advise you of any appropriate tests and what the next steps are. 

Children at risk of anaphylaxis are often prescribed adrenaline auto-injector devices to carry with them at all times. If your child has a severe reaction, use the adrenaline auto-injector device (if they have one) and call 999 for an ambulance immediately. 

Symptoms of anaphylaxis in children include: 

• Swelling in the throat and/or around the airway

• Difficulty breathing

• Wheezing (like an asthma attack)

• Feeling faint or dizzy

In the case of less severe allergic reactions, your GP or Boots pharmacist might recommend antihistamine medications or allergy products suitable for children, including nasal sprays. You can browse the range of products available for children's allergies here.

For more information and support for childhood allergies, visit Allergy UK.

Travelling when you have an allergy can pose some additional challenges, but with advance planning, you can make travelling as stress-free as possible. 

Here are some top tips you might want to consider: 

1. Translation cards: if you’re travelling to somewhere where you don’t speak the language, translation cards can be very useful in communicating what it is that you’re allergic to, for instance at your hotel or in a restaurant. 

2. If travelling by plane contact your airline in advance: if you have a food allergy, air travel can be daunting. Check the airline’s policy on food allergies before you book flights and contact the airline once you’ve booked your flights to let them know. It’s also a good idea to remind airline staff about your allergy as often as possible when you travel.

3. Ensure you have enough medication: before you travel make sure you have enough medication with you, and make sure it’s accessible. This is particularly important if you use an adrenaline auto-injector. If you’ve previously been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector and taught how to use it, you may be able to access anaphylaxis treatment through Boots Online Doctor.* It’s also important to check the rules around the types and maximum quantity of medication you can take with you if travelling abroad. The NHS has more advice on things to consider when travelling with medication here.

If you suffer from hayfever there are several ways you can help manage hay fever symptoms. This includes self-management methods, like using a barrier product such as petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline or Boots Baby Petroleum Jelly around your nostrils to trap pollen or showering and changing your clothes after you have been outside, to wash pollen off. 

You should take some over-the-counter products with you when travelling that may help relieve symptoms including:  
• Tablets

• Eye drops

• Nasal sprays

• Cooling eye masks

Sometimes people may find that a hay fever regime where they use a combination of treatments may work best for them. This can help to ease different types of symptoms. For instance, antihistamines can help ease sneezing eye symptoms and an itchy, runny nose. But to help treat congestion in the nose, a steroid nasal spray is more effective. 

4. Consider preventative measures: this can include thinking about how to prevent insect bites when travelling abroad. As well as insect repellents, you could also consider plug-ins which help to reduce the risk of bites and stings whilst in your holiday accommodation. 

5. Know what emergency services are available: it’s a good idea to know in advance what the number for the emergency services is in the location you’re visiting, as well as where the nearest emergency department is. 

NHS information about allergies

Get delivery on selected products in as little as 30 minutes with Deliveroo!***


Antihistamines are medicines usually used to help relieve symptoms of allergies.

They work by blocking the effects of histamine, which is a substance normally released by your body when it detects something harmful to you, like an infection. It causes blood vessels to expand and the skin to swell, to help protect you. However, when you have an allergy, histamine is released in response to something harmless, causing allergy symptoms.

There are two main types, antihistamines that might make you sleepy, and non-drowsy antihistamines. They can come in many different forms, including tablets, liquids, creams, eye drops and nasal sprays.

Anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, is a severe allergic reaction that develops rapidly in reaction to a trigger. It can be life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

• Difficulty breathing

• Feeling faint or lightheaded

• Collapsing or losing consciousness

• Wheezing

• Damp, clammy skin

• A fast heartbeat

• Feeling anxious, disoriented or confused

• Other allergy symptoms (such as a rash, swelling, nausea or vomiting)

If someone goes into anaphylactic shock, use an adrenaline auto-injector if they have one, but make sure you know how to use it correctly first. Instructions are included on the side of the injector. Then call 999 for an ambulance immediately.

Find out more about treatment for anaphylaxis 

Yes, it’s possible to develop an allergy to something you weren’t previously allergic to, including pollen (hayfever) . However, it’s also possible for allergies to resolve over time or symptoms to grow less severe.

The reasons for this aren’t fully understood yet, but may include:

• Immune system changes: for instance, due to aging

• Stress, obesity and hormones: which may lead to changes to the immune system

• Environmental changes: for example, if someone moves and encounters new allergens

That depends on the type of medication. It’s ok to take an antihistamine at the same time as some other hay fever treatments, like a nasal spray or eye drops if they are suitable for you.

You shouldn’t take two antihistamines together unless recommended by your doctor, but If you’re not sure if you can take two medicines at the same time, speak to your local Boots pharmacist or your GP.

Feel under the weather? Get relief from coughs, colds, & seasonal illnesses. We've got advice, products, & services to help you feel better

1Subject to availability. Eligibility criteria may apply. Charges may apply.

4Order by 8pm for next day delivery, available 7 days a week (subject to change during promotions). Usually delivered between 8am and 9pm. The earliest delivery date for these orders will be shown at the checkout. “HEALTHFNDD” code must be used before checkout. One code per order and not available on in-store orders, available online only. Subject to availability.

*Access to prescription-only treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.

**Subject to availability. Charges may apply.

***Minimum spend £15. Geographical restrictions, delivery and service fees apply. Subject to availability. See in-store for details.

 Buy 1 get 2nd 1/2 price on selected hayfever relief. Cheapest 1/2 price. Subject to availability.

You must be signed in & have an Advantage Card assigned to your account to be able to shop savings. Normal Advantage Card terms & conditions apply. Excludes in-store orders. No Price Advantage at airport stores. Read more Advantage Card offer terms and conditions here.

Page last reviewed by Boots Pharmacy team on 30/05/2024

Itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose? If you need help understanding the symptoms of seasonal allergies or want to know what causes allergies, Boots Health Hub is here to support you with information and advice. And why not check out our allergy products just in time for hayfever season?