Many of us suffer from seasonal allergies, greeting spring or summer with a stuffy,
runny or itchy nose; red, watery or itchy eyes; swollen eyelids; or a nagging cough.
But airborne pollens aren’t the only allergens that can make eyes itch and noses
twitch. Some people battle these symptoms year-round, thanks to dust mites, pet dander,
smoke, smog and other ever-present irritants.
Whenever allergy-like symptoms appear, first check in with your doctor, says Joann Blessing-Moore, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with Mills-Peninsula Medical Group in Burlingame. Your doctor can evaluate you properly to rule out any potential underlying conditions that could be causing these symptoms. For example, a runny nose and cough may not be allergies at all, but rather a sinus infection or other respiratory ailment.
Because susceptibility to allergies is genetic, you can’t will them away, no matter how much you’d love to. What you can do is try to manage your exposure to allergens and treat symptoms as they arise.
Dr. Blessing-Moore suggests starting with simple remedies, such as nasal saline
solutions. Also called saltwater nose sprays, these solutions gently wash pollen and
other irritants from your nose so they’re not continually aggravating you. Find
saline solutions at any drugstore, or make your own with 1 cup of water, ¼
teaspoon of salt and a pinch of baking soda.
If your symptoms persist, Dr. Blessing-Moore recommends loratadine, an over-the-counter antihistamine that won’t make you drowsy. If that doesn’t seem to help, there are also non-sedating prescription antihistamines that your doctor may suggest, as well as prescription nasal steroids and nasal sprays. But as with any medication, these can produce unwanted side effects. “Be careful with decongestant nasal sprays,” Dr. Blessing-Moore says. “You can get a sore nose if you overuse them.”