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Nasal Allergies Overview

If you have nasal allergies, you're more sensitive than others to certain substances. These substances are usually considered harmless, such as pollen or mold. They cause an allergic reaction in your nose, eyes, and sinuses, triggering symptoms such as stuffiness, itching, runny nose, and watery eyes.

How nasal allergies are diagnosed. Doctors diagnose nasal allergies by:

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  • what you tell them about your allergy symptoms
  • what you tell them about your medical history
  • a physical exam that may include tests to identify the substances to which you are allergic

How nasal allergies are treated. There are three main approaches to treating nasal allergies:

  • avoidance, where you try to stay away from the substances that trigger allergies
  • medications, which you take to either treat or prevent allergy symptoms
  • immunotherapy, where you receive injections that can help you become less sensitive to the substances causing allergic reactions

Is your nose sometimes stuffy or runny? Do you sneeze and itch? Do your allergy symptoms get worse in the early spring or late summer or fall? Do you feel like you have frequent colds that just won't go away?

Your "cold" may not be a cold at all. It may be nasal allergies, also called hay fever, chronic nasal allergy, or allergic rhinitis. These are allergies that affect your nose, eyes, ears and throat. They can occur seasonally or year-round.

The good news is nasal allergies can be treated, and you can feel better. See the next page on some tips to manage nasal allergies.

How you can make a difference:

  • Learn what causes your allergic reactions and how to avoid your allergy triggers.
  • Develop strategies for keeping your environment as allergen-free as it can be.
  • Keep track of which medicines work best to prevent and relieve your symptoms and take them at the appropriate time.
  • Develop healthy habits that ensure good nutrition, plenty of exercise, and adequate rest.
  • Develop strategies for working effectively with your doctor and for sticking with your treatment plan.
  • Get support from others who know how miserable it can be to suffer with nasal allergies.

There is much you can do to gain control over your nasal allergies. In fact, when it comes to the most effective treatment for nasal allergies, you are your own best provider. That's because the first step in controlling nasal allergies is avoiding those things that trigger them. By learning now what you can do to help yourself, you will soon be able to take charge of your life rather than letting your allergies control you. You will also be able to work more effectively with your doctor to control your symptoms.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Written by Karen Serrano, MD Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD

Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine

Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University

Board certified in Allergy and Immunology

Last updated June 2008

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