Pollen, mold, pets, or dust mites? If you have watery eyes and a stuffy nose, you’re probably more interested in what will stop your symptoms than what’s causing them. But when you know what’s to blame, you can find relief.
If your achoos only come at certain times of the year, you may be allergic to pollen. In the spring, trees are usually responsible for allergies. In summer, grasses and weeds are the main culprits. In fall, it's weeds, especially ragweed.
If your symptoms last all year, you may be allergic to dust mites, pet dander, or mold. Outdoors, mold usually peaks in late summer and early fall. But it can hang around all year.
You can be allergic to more than one thing. You can also have seasonal and year-round allergies. Most people have more than one thing that sets their sneezes off.
What Are Allergy Symptoms?
Your body sees the thing you’re allergic to as an invader. It sends out chemicals like histamine to fight off the foreign substance.
Histamine is what sets off your symptoms. You get congested, and your nose and eyes may itch and water. You probably sneeze a lot.
How Do I Find Out What I'm Allergic To?
Usually your doctor can diagnose allergies based on your symptoms and triggers. If your reactions are more severe or medication doesn’t help, an allergist (a doctor who specializes in treating allergies) may do a skin test to find out what your triggers are.
They'll put tiny bits of things that might cause an allergic reaction (they’ll call them allergens) on your arm or back, and then scratch the surface of your skin. Any places that get red and itchy mean you have an allergy to that specific trigger.
It’s not all that common, but your doctor may also do a blood test to help diagnose you. In some cases, blood tests are performed because a person should not undergo a skin test. However, they are not as sensitive as skin tests -- and are generally more expensive -- and they are not as reliable for diagnosing allergies to airborne substances, such as pollen, pet dander and dust mites.
Who Gets Outdoor Allergies?
Lots of people get them. Your doctor may call them "hay fever." No one knows why some people get them and others don't.
If your parents have allergies, there's a higher chance you will, too. If you have asthma or eczema, you're more likely to get hay fever or year-round allergies.
Will Allergy Shots Help?
Your doctor may call this treatment "immunotherapy." Here’s how it works: They’ll put a little bit of the allergy trigger into your body. Over time you get used to the substance and don’t react to it anymore.
Shots work best if you have symptoms for longer than 3 months each year. They can help lower your need for meds to control your symptoms.
Also, the FDA has approved four under-the-tongue tablets that can be taken at home. The prescription tablets treat hay fever and work the same way as shots -- the goal is to boost your tolerance of allergy triggers.