If you find yourself developing a killer headache when riding an elevator with someone who was a bit generous dabbing on the perfume, you have company. More than 2 million Americans have fragrance allergies or sensitivities -- and the number is on the rise.
Although that person's perfume may have been all too obvious a culprit, there are many hidden sources of fragrances, says Clifford W. Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York. Bassett helped WebMD sniff out the truth...
First step: Figure out your allergy triggers and avoid them. Things like dust mites, pet dander, and pollen are often high on the list.
Then remake your bed. You can get pillows and bedding that can prevent sneezes and sniffles. Look for items that say "hypoallergenic." Because dust mites are a huge cause of allergies, get pillow and mattress covers that keep the critters at bay.
If your pets share the bedroom or bed with you, it’s time to find them a new place to sleep.
Check your home's heating and air system. If you can upgrade to a unit that does a better job at air filtration, think about it.
Otherwise, vacuum your carpets and furniture often. If you haven’t upgraded the vacuum lately, do. Today’s models are built to capture allergens, not just stir them up.
If you use a humidifier, change the water regularly. That prevents mold, another allergy trigger, from growing.
Treat Your Allergies
Some treatments that can also help include:
Saline nasal flushes. You’ll use a device like a Neti pot to pour a solution into one nostril and let it drain out the other. It can help relieve congestion, but the effects may not last long.
Nasal decongestant sprays. They clear your stuffy nose, but don’t use them for more than 3 days. After that, they can make you more stopped up.
Nasal decongestant pills or liquids. These also work well and can give you long-lasting relief, but you may not want to use them at night. Some can keep you awake, especially those with pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.
Antihistamines. Use them to dry up your runny nose and postnasal drip. Keep an eye out for side effects like dizziness, blurred vision, and a "hangover effect" that makes you sleepy the next morning. Don’t use them long-term, either.
Steroid nasal sprays. Their role is to stop your immune system from overreacting to allergy triggers. They take a while to work, but they help prevent symptoms when you use them regularly.
If your allergies keep you from getting the sleep you need, or if medication side effects bother you, talk to your doctor or see an allergist for a complete exam and treatment options.