All About Nasal Allergies

Medically Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on February 07, 2016

Nasal allergies can have symptoms like a cold -- watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and congestion -- that just won’t seem to go away. If your reaction to pollen, mold, dust, or pets is severe enough, it can change your day-to-day life.

But you can do things to stifle your sniffles. Start with these ideas from allergist James L. Sublett, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

1. Get Your Home in Order

It should be your fortress, a ship on the angry sea of nasal allergies. If you're allergic to pollen, keep the outdoors out.

Shut the windows and crank the air conditioning no matter how nice the weather. Sublett says it might also be a good idea to put a filtration system in the furnace and AC to screen out allergens.

Next, if you have the budget for a big change, he recommends you get rid of as much upholstery and carpet as possible. Replace it with hardwoods and smooth surfaces where a wet rag or mop can easily pick up dust or pet hair.

Mold can show up inside your home, too. Keep bathrooms clean and dry. Be quick to repair and seal leaking pipes or roofs. Damp basements may need a dehumidifier, but be sure to empty them regularly.

Take special care to allergy-proof your bedroom. Avoid down-filled pillows or comforters, a favorite of dust mites. Use zippered, hypoallergenic covers for pillows and mattresses.

2. Keep Fido at Bay

It’s a plot made for tragedy: Woman loves man. Woman is allergic to man’s dog. Sublett says this drama doesn’t have to end in heartbreak -- or a sinus headache.

First, make sure you're actually allergic to your partner's other best friend. “I see it in patients fairly frequently,” Sublett says. “They come in and tell me, ‘It must be my dog.’ It may not be.” It could be another allergen or even another animal. “You can pick up animal allergens from different places, other houses, people’s clothes.”

If you know it's Fido that’s making your nose run, it’s a good idea to mark your territory. “At minimum, keep them out of the bedroom,” Sublett says. “Definitely off the bed.”

Also groom your pet regularly, and do it outside of your home. Again, air filtration will help keep the allergens from circulating.

And if your reaction is severe, Sublett says you should think about getting allergy shots, also called " immunotherapy." It helps your immune system tame your allergy symptoms. “With animals, shots can be a game-changer,” he says.

3. Be Smart When You Venture Out

Pollen counts are usually higher in the early- to mid-morning hours, and they let up as the day goes on.

Pollen is always less sneezy for you after it rains, too. Mold, on the other hand, is worse after it rains, and in the evenings during times of high humidity. Windy days, when allergens are stirred up, aren’t great.

Hitting the road? When you go on vacation or for business, take your own pillow, encased in a dust-proof cover. Pick a hotel that doesn’t allow pets or smoking, since allergens can attach to smoke particles.

4. Medication: The Right Tool for the Right Job

All of these prevention steps won’t get rid of allergens from your life. Sublett shares his symptom-by-symptom recommendations for meds:

Irritated eyes: A cool compress and wearing sunglasses outdoors can often help, but antihistamine eye drops can also do the trick. Antihistamine and steroid nasal sprays may give you some benefits, too.

Runny nose: Try salt water (saline) sprays. “They can wash things out,” Sublett says.

Congestion: Sublett says decongestant nasal sprays lower blood flow to the nose, and when they wear off, they can lead to more congestion. He suggests instead using a combination of antihistamines and a steroid nasal spray to ease swelling of nasal passages.

Sneezing: Steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines can help with the achoos, if allergies are the cause. If you have a cold or the flu, they won’t help.

Postnasal drip: Use saline. You can also try gargling with warm salt water. “It may not get rid of it,” Sublett says. “But it’ll break up the mucus in the back of your throat.”

5. See an Allergist

If you try all this and don’t get enough relief, a professional may be your best option.

It’s not all about shots and prescriptions. Sometimes the allergist can see other problems and spot triggers you didn’t know you had, Sublett says.

The problem may not even be an allergy. So ask the doctor to be sure.

“There is help out there,” Sublett says.

Show Sources


James L. Sublett, MD, president, American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

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