When your allergies act up, do you reach for the same prescription or over-the-counter product that's eased your symptoms in the past? What if it doesn't work the same way now?
There’s a small chance your body has built up resistance to your favorite allergy medicine. It's much more likely, though, says Neil Kao, MD, that what's happening is due to some change in your life, your body, or your environment. Kao is an allergist with the Allergic Disease & Asthma Center in Greenville, SC.
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Did you move recently or start a new job? Your new setting might fire up your allergies.
Say you've moved across country. You may be around plants you’ve never seen before. Or just moving from the country to the city can cause allergies to flare.
“Pollution such as diesel exhaust can intensify allergies,” says Jeffrey Demain, MD. He's director of the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center of Alaska. “If you live near an interstate or are spending more time on the road for work, your symptoms can get worse.”
Ask your doctor if you need to change your treatment. “If you’ve been taking antihistamines for years and they’re not working now," Kao says, "talk to your doctor about something stronger, such as allergy shots.”
More Pollen Days
Warmer temperatures mean allergy season starts earlier and lasts longer. Plus, ragweed plants, one of the biggest reasons you sneeze in the fall, are growing faster and creating more pollen.
Allergy meds work best when you start them several weeks before the season. Now that allergy season is longer, you’ll need to plan further ahead.
Demain says you should schedule a meeting with your allergist a few months before your allergies normally kick in.
Your symptoms could seem worse if your allergies change.
Perhaps you were just allergic to ragweed before. Now you have the one-two punch of ragweed and grass. Or maybe you have a new indoor allergy. For instance, you could have a reaction to mold or pet dander.
The result? You might need a stronger medicine.
Kao says the best way to find out what’s going on is to get a simple and inexpensive series of allergy tests. Once you know which allergens affect you, your doctor can come up with an effective medication plan.
Something Besides Allergies
Things like an inflammation in your sinuses or nasal polyps -- tiny growths on the lining of your nose -- could make your allergy symptoms worse, Demain says.
Your regular doctor, allergist, or an ENT doctor -- that's an ear, nose, and throat specialist -- can diagnose and treat these conditions.