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Fighting Allergic Rhinitis: Where to Start

If over-the-counter allergy treatments do the trick for you, great! If not, you should see your doctor.

You might assume that you have allergies when you really have nonallergic rhinitis, which is triggered by irritants like cigarette smoke or fumes, instead of allergens. Or your symptoms could stem from colds, sinus problems, asthma, thyroid dysfunction, medication side effects, or other issues. If allergies aren’t really your problem, those allergy drugs won’t do any good.

If your doctor does say you have allergic rhinitis, it's a good idea to find the cause of your allergies. The only way to do that is to get allergy testing.

“Some people with allergic rhinitis spend a lot of time and money focusing on the wrong thing,” says Hugh H. Windom, associate clinical professor of allergy and immunology at the University of South Florida.

 “They assume that they’re allergic to dust mites, so they spend thousands renovating their homes, pulling up carpets, and cleaning air ducts. But it turns out to be the oak tree outside the bedroom window.”

So get allergy testing before you do anything drastic. You don’t want to pry a beloved kitty out of your tearful child’s arms, find it a new home, and then discover that you were never allergic to cats in the first place.


doctor and patient

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