Sign #1: The Allergic Salute
You vacuum with a HEPA filter. You stay indoors when the pollen count is high. You take medications as directed. But do you really have allergy symptoms under control? If you're constantly doing the "allergic salute," the answer is probably no. This gesture -- a swipe at the tip of an itchy, runny nose -- is especially common in children.
Sign #2: Raccoon Eyes
Dark circles under watery eyes are another sign of allergies. You can get circles when you're always rubbing itchy eyes. Fortunately, itching, tearing, sneezing, and a runny nose can all be relieved with antihistamines. If you already take this type of medication without success, check with your doctor about changing your treatment plan.
Sign #3: Chronic Congestion
A stuffy nose usually lasts a week or two when a cold or flu is to blame. If congestion goes on and on, allergies are a more likely suspect. During an allergic reaction, the lining of your nasal passages may swell and produce extra mucus. This can cause sinus pressure and headaches. Decongestants can give you short-term relief. For a long-term plan of action, consider seeing an allergist.
Sign #4: Wheezing
Wheezing is often linked with asthma, but it can also be a sign of a serious allergic reaction. The characteristic whistling sound happens when air passes through narrowed airways. In severe cases, wheezing needs emergency care. You should be checked by your doctor if you have wheezing related to allergies.
Sign #5: Itchy Skin
Itching may just be a sign of dry skin. But when it doesn't stop, and especially when it comes with a rash, eczema may be to blame. Eczema is a type of skin reaction that's common in people with allergies. Triggers may include soap or detergent, pet dander, and rough materials. Antihistamines, moisturizers, and hydrocortisone cream can help soothe flares. For severe cases, prescription medications are available.
Sign #6: Hives
Hives are hard to miss. These pale red welts tend to itch, and they can last from several hours to several days. Often, they're caused by an allergic reaction to some type of food, medication, or insect sting. Antihistamines usually give you immediate relief. Steroids may be needed in some cases. But the best solution is to find and avoid the trigger.
Sign #7: Insomnia
Itching, congestion, post-nasal drip, sinus pain -- and other allergy-related symptoms can be tough on sleep. Symptoms like coughing or wheezing may wake you up, and a stuffed nose may make it hard to fall asleep. Some allergy drugs can also disrupt a good night's sleep. Trouble sleeping is one sign that it may be time to ask your doctor about changing how you treat allergies.
Sign #8: Trouble Concentrating
You may find it hard to concentrate when your eyes are tearing, your nose is dripping, and you've been up all night. Plus, some over-the-counter antihistamines may make you feel foggy. If you find work, home life, or relationships are suffering because of allergies, tell your doctor. It may be time to discuss treatment options.
Sign #9: Fatigue
Allergies can deal a triple-whammy to your energy level. First, symptoms can affect the quality of sleep. Second, allergies cause the immune system to constantly overreact, which can cause fatigue. Third, some antihistamines cause drowsiness. Some newer antihistamines or other medications may be less likely to cause drowsiness. Ask your pharmacist for help.
Sign #10: Depression
Do you feel blue whenever allergies flare? Some research points to a connection between allergies and mood changes. The National Institute of Mental Health is studying the link between seasonal allergies and depression. Although we can't prove that allergies cause people to feel depressed, there are effective treatments for depression. Be sure to let your doctor know if you feel down.
More Reading on Allergies
Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Slideshow Pictures: Allergy -- 10 Signs Your Allergies Are Out of Control
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