Learn how seasonal and environmental allergies can cause symptoms of sneezing, congestion and watery eyes. Find out how avoidance and medication can help you get relief.
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA
on February 5, 2014
Respiratory allergies and hay fever are some of the most
common conditions in the U.S., and upwards of 30 percent of adults and 40
percent of children report dealing with prolonged periods of sneezing and congestion
Allergies are the result of the body overreacting to tiny
inhaled particles like tree pollen or dust. When these substances enter the
body, the immune system identifies them as dangerous invaders and releases
chemicals that can cause inflammation or irritation to the nose, throat, and
There are generally two types of respiratory allergies:
1. Seasonal allergies occur in the spring, summer, or fall
as different trees, plants, or grasses release pollen into the air.
2. Perennial or year-round allergies can occur at anytime
and are caused by a variety of things, including poor air quality, pets, insects,
or mold spores.
The first step to getting your allergy symptoms under
control is identifying the substance, or allergen, that’s causing the symptoms.
An allergist or immunologist can perform a skin or blood test to determine the
cause of your respiratory allergies. Once the cause has been identified, it’s
important to try and avoid exposure. This may mean limiting the amount of time
you spend outdoors or avoiding contact with pets.
There are also a number of common over-the-counter and
prescription medications that can help control symptoms:
1. Decongestants offer quick, temporary relief from nasal
and sinus congestion.
2. Antihistamines work by blocking the effect of certain
chemicals in the body and are helpful at preventing swelling, running nose and
itchy or watery eyes. These medications generally work best as a preventative
measure before you come into contact with a particular allergen.
3. Corticosteroids are another class of medications that help
stop the body’s allergic response and are effective at both preventing and relieving
a variety of symptoms. For seasonal or year-round allergies, these medications
are usually prescribed as an inhaled nasal spray and generally have few side
If you’d like to learn more about treating allergies or hay
fever, take a look at the information we have here at Healthline or make an
appointment with your doctor.
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