If you have nasal allergies, you may be used to sneezing and congestion that last the entire day. But you don’t have to just put up with it. Whether you’re allergic to dust mites, tree pollen, or animal dander, you can find relief for your nasal allergy symptoms.
“Some people suffer with seasonal allergies for years before they learn that there are effective treatments,” says James Sublett, MD, chief of pediatric allergy at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky. But there are good reasons why you shouldn’t wait to treat allergies.
“If allergy symptoms aren’t treated early, they can actually get worse over time,” Sublett says.
Here are five allergy symptoms you shouldn’t ignore and what you can do about them.
Nasal Allergy Symptom 1: Runny or Stuffy Nose
A runny or stuffy nose is one of the most common symptoms. “The best way to treat congestion is to treat the allergy that’s causing it,” says Marshall Plaut, MD, chief of allergic mechanisms at the Asthma, Allergy and Inflammation branch of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Start by trying to avoid your allergy triggers. If you don’t already know what your allergy triggers are, an allergist can help you identify them.
Although it can be difficult to completely avoid some triggers, you may be able to reduce your exposure to them. For example, if pollen is a trigger, stay inside when pollen counts are high. If dogs or cats make you sniffle, wash your hands and change your clothes after playing with them.
Some people find that nasal irrigation using a Neti pot or a nasal rinse helps clear congestion. Over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and cromolyn sodium nasal sprays can all help control nasal allergy symptoms. Don’t use decongestant nasal sprays for more than three days at a time, however. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label for any over-the-counter medicine.
If these remedies don’t offer relief, your doctor may prescribe other treatments.
If your symptoms don’t get better within 7 days or get worse after about 5 days, it’s time to see your doctor.
Nasal Allergy Symptom 2: Sinus Pressure
Your sinuses are small cavities behind your forehead, cheeks, and eyes. If mucus builds up in these areas because of allergies, you may feel pressure or pain.
You can help reduce sinus congestion by applying a moist, warm cloth to your face or inhaling steam a few times each day. You can also try using a saline nasal spray. If you feel sinus pain and pressure for more than a week, call your doctor.
Nasal Allergy Symptom 3: Sneezing
If you’ve ever had a bout of uncontrollable sneezing, you know what a nuisance it can be. Some people have such severe sneezing episodes that they interfere with their daily life. But sneezing doesn’t have to be that serious to seek relief.
If you can’t avoid the allergen that’s causing the sneezing, or if doing so doesn’t help, try an over-the-counter antihistamine. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label for any over-the-counter medicine. If that doesn’t help, your doctor may prescribe a nasal steroid spray.
Nasal Allergy Symptom 4: Itchy Eyes
Itchy or watery eyes are a common allergy symptom. Although they can be annoying, eye symptoms don’t usually cause serious eye or vision problems.
Again, avoiding the triggers that cause your allergies is the best way to help prevent itchy eyes. For example, if you’re allergic to pollen, keep the windows shut when you’re inside and wear sunglasses outside to help protect your eyes. Try not to rub your eyes, since this can irritate them, and avoid wearing contact lenses.
To soothe your eyes, try placing a cold washcloth over them or use artificial tears. Over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications or eyedrops that contain an antihistamine can also help relieve symptoms.
Nasal Allergy Symptom 5: Postnasal Drip
Normally, you swallow mucus without even knowing it. But if your mucus becomes thick, or if you have more mucus than normal, it results in postnasal drip. That’s when you can feel mucus dripping from the back of your nose into your throat. Postnasal drip can also feel like a lump in your throat and can lead to pain or irritation there.
In addition to avoiding your allergy triggers, try drinking extra fluids or using saline nasal spray to thin the mucus. Ask your doctor about other ways to get relief.