Allergen

Allergens, also called antigens, are substances that can trigger an allergic reaction. Having allergies means that the body reacts to allergens as a harmful foreign substance.

Allergens may be:

  • Inhaled in the form of pollens, mold, chemicals, material from the stools of cockroaches and house dust mites, or animal dander and saliva. Animal dander is dead skin cells from an animal, such as a cat or dog. Animal hair or fur is not an allergen.
  • Eaten or taken by mouth, including foods, food supplements, home remedies, or medications.
  • Touched, such as cosmetics, plants, soaps or detergents, chemicals, metals, or latex (causing skin or contact allergies).
  • Applied to the skin, such as artificial nails, hair extensions, or henna tattoos.
  • Injected under the skin, such as medications or venom from the bites or stings of bees, yellow jackets, hornets, or other insects.

Allergy symptoms may be controlled by avoiding exposure to allergens. Some people need medications or allergy shots (immunotherapy) to control their body's reactions to the allergens.

Last Updated: July 2, 2009

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Harold S. Nelson, MD - Allergy and Immunology

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.