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Signs of Allergies

Everyone sneezes. But how do you know whether your sneezing is caused by an allergy? It can happen when you least expect it, like when you’re plucking your eyebrows or when you step outdoors into sunlight. A sneeze can be brought on (or out!) when the nerves in your eyes are exposed to bright light.

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A runny or stuffy nose can also be a symptom of allergies. Allergic rhinitis, known as hay fever, is a term used to describe allergic reactions in the nose. Symptoms of hay fever can include sneezing, congestion and runny nose, as well as itching in your nose, eyes and/or the roof of your mouth.

Other allergy-related conditions can cause a runny or stuffy nose, as well as sneezing. These include:

  • Sinus infection. There are two major forms of sinus infections (also called sinusitis): acute and chronic. Both acute and chronic sinus infections can be viral or bacterial. Some long-standing infections are fungal.
  • Decongestant nasal spray overuse. Over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays are commonly used to relieve nasal congestion from colds or allergies. But if you use them regularly for as little as three days, a rebound nasal congestion can occur. If you continue to use the spray, the rebound effect gets worse and worse, leading to almost chronic nasal blockage. Many times, people with this condition don’t realize that the spray is causing the problem.
  • Nonallergic rhinitis. These are ailments that mimic some of the symptoms of hay fever, such as nasal congestion and postnasal drip, but are not caused by allergies. Different than nasal allergies, these nonallergic nasal problems usually appear in adulthood, don’t usually make your nose and eyes itch, don’t include sneezing and often occur year-round.  

Triggers

People who suffer from nasal allergy symptoms don’t all have the same triggers. If you have seasonal allergies, you might be allergic to a specific tree or grass pollen that only sets off your symptoms at a certain time of year. Or you might be allergic to a specific kind of mold that appears in the fall when it’s been rainy and leaves are wet.

More than two-thirds of people who suffer from seasonal allergies also have symptoms year-round. Those can be caused by allergens indoors, such as dust mites, cockroaches, animal dander from pets and, again, mold. It’s important to know your triggers. Allergists are specially trained to help you identify the source of your suffering and then stop it — not just treat the symptoms.

Once you know your triggers, you are better equipped to avoid them. How do you stop a runny or stuffy nose due to allergies? The best allergy medicine for sneezing is to see an allergist. Work with your allergist to avoid your triggers and reduce symptoms.

Learn about common allergy triggers and how to avoid them:

How to Get Tested

Both seasonal and year-round allergies can cause a runny, stuffy nose, and sneezing. Getting tested by a board-certified allergist is the first step to finding relief. An allergist will take a detailed medical history and review your symptoms to determine whether your allergies are triggered by pollens, animal dander, mold, dust mites, cockroaches, weather changes or something else.

Allergy tests are both convenient and accurate. When combined with a detailed medical history, allergy testing can identify the specific things that trigger your allergic reactions.

If your runny, stuffy nose or sneezing is from allergies, the best remedy is to get your allergies under control. Once you have been tested and have identified your allergies, you can work on avoiding triggers and controlling your environment. 

It Could Also Be…

Anything that irritates or aggravates your nose can cause a runny nose, a stuffy nose or sneezing. Colds and the flu, which stem from infections, and other irritants can contribute too. If your nose just won’t stop running and you can’t find the cause, you may have nonallergic rhinitis. If your allergist rules out allergies, ask what else might be causing your nasal symptoms such as:

  • Common cold
  • Deviated septum (nasal disorder)
  • Drug addiction
  • Dry air
  • Hormonal changes
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Medications
  • Nasal polyps
  • Object lodged in your nose
  • Pregnancy
  • Tobacco smoke

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