Q&A: Allergy & Sinus
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 50 million people suffer from some form of allergies. If you're one of them or believe that you might be, we can provide answers to your questions about what allergies are, what causes them and what you can do to alleviate troublesome symptoms.
How long do allergies last?
Unfortunately, you can't predict how long allergy symptoms will persist. Allergies happen when your immune system reacts to a substance called an allergen that it mistakes as a threat. In reaction, your body releases chemicals that trigger symptoms. Your body will continue to release these chemicals while you are exposed to the allergen, and your symptoms will continue until then. That's why people who develop hay fever allergies due to pollen in the air outside can experience symptoms for weeks or even months at a time.
The only way to know for sure if a symptom like a rash or sneezing is caused by allergies is to visit a doctor. Medical specialists called allergists can determine whether or not you have allergies through skin and blood tests. Your primary physician can recommend an allergist for you.
How do I know if I have allergies?
How do you know if you have allergies?
How do you know if you have a gluten allergy?
People who have reactions when they eat food that contains gluten technically do not have an allergy, although the symptoms that occur are caused by the immune system. Symptoms of gluten intolerance or sensitivity include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone and joint pain and fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, visit your doctor for blood testing to diagnose the problem.
What to do for allergies
The best thing to do for allergies is to avoid whatever triggers them as much as possible. Of course, it can be impossible to stay away from pollen, dust and many other common allergens. Your doctor can recommend allergy medicine and other treatments to help you manage symptoms.
What do allergies feel like?
Symptoms of an allergy vary based on the type of reaction that you are having.
- Food allergies can cause vomiting, stomach pain, hives, shortness of breath, wheezing similar to asthma, coughing and swelling of the tongue.
- Skin allergies typically cause an itchy rash that consists of small bumps or large welts. Blisters and burning can also occur when your skin reacts to an allergen.
- Nasal allergies caused by dust, pollen, dog or cat dander and other environmental allergens typically cause sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, red eyes, itching and watering of the eyes, wheezing, coughing and a general feeling of itchiness.
How to get rid of allergies
Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies. Avoiding allergens as much as possible can help you reduce the frequency of symptoms. Treatments recommended by your doctor can help reduce the severity of symptoms when you're not able to avoid allergens.
How to stop allergies
Stopping allergy symptoms involves avoiding allergens that trigger symptoms and using a remedy recommended by your doctor to manage symptoms when they do occur. There are no treatments available to stop or completely cure allergies.
How to treat allergies
There are a number of ways that you can get relief from allergy symptoms.
If they do not provide enough relief, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication. Your doctor may also recommend allergy shots to make your body less sensitive to allergens.
- For eye symptoms like redness and itching, over-the-counter drops are typically recommended.
- Over-the-counter or prescription medicinal creams can be applied for skin rashes due to allergies.
- For nasal allergies, doctors often first recommend over-the-counter drugs such as nasal sprays to control symptoms.
How to tell the difference between a cold and allergies
There are a number of ways to tell the difference between allergies and a cold:
- How symptoms start. With a cold, you'll likely develop one symptom at a time. For example, you might start sneezing first and then develop sinus nasal congestion. Allergy symptoms typically occur all at once.
- How long symptoms last. If symptoms resolve within 7 to 10 days, a cold is the more likely cause. Allergy symptoms can last for longer or shorter periods of time. They can also disappear only to reappear within a few days or weeks. Cold symptoms usually gradually improve until your body recovers from the virus.
- Color of mucus. Colds are more likely to cause thick mucus that is yellow or green in color. Mucus discharge related to allergies is usually thinner and clear.
- Time of year. Colds are more common during the winter months. Seasonal allergies or hay fever often start in the spring and come and go throughout the summer and fall.
Can allergies cause fevers?
Allergies typically do not cause a fever. Nasal congestion, sneezing and headaches accompanied by a fever are more likely to be due to a cold.
Can allergies cause a sore throat?
A sore throat is not a primary symptom of allergies; however, if your nasal passages are congested, mucus may drip down into your throat, causing irritation and discomfort. If your only symptom is a sore throat, allergies are unlikely to be the culprit.
Can allergies make you tired?
Yes, many people feel fatigued while experiencing allergy symptoms. Some medications used to treat symptoms of allergies can also cause drowsiness.
Can allergies cause coughing?
Both food and environmental allergies can trigger coughing. If your cough is accompanied by shortness of breath and chest pain, you should seek emergency medical treatment immediately, as you might be having a dangerous allergic reaction.
Can allergies cause headaches?
Yes, it's possible to experience headaches with allergies. Pressure caused by nasal congestion is usually found in the sinus area. Research also shows that allergies can cause migraine headaches, one-sided head pain that grows worse in sunlight and often causes nausea.
Can allergies cause dizziness?
Dizziness is more commonly associated with food allergies than environmental allergies; however, feeling dizzy or unsteady on your feet can develop with any allergic reaction.