Signs Your Allergies Are Out of Control

No. 1: The Allergic Salute

Photo of boy wiping nose.

You vacuum with a HEPA filter. You stay indoors when the pollen count is high. You take medications like your doctor tells you to. But do you really have your 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.

No. 2: Raccoon Eyes

Photo of woman wiping face.

Dark circles are another sign of allergies. You get them when you're always rubbing itchy eyes. Take antihistamines to put a stop to symptoms like itchy, teary eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose. If you already take them but they don't work really well, talk to your doctor about changing your treatment plan.

No. 3: Chronic Congestion

Photo of overflowing wastebasket.

If you have a cold or the flu, your stuffy nose should go away in a week or two. If congestion goes on and on, allergies are more likely to blame. During an allergic reaction, the lining of your nasal passages swells and makes extra mucus. You might get sinus pressure and headaches. Decongestants can give you short-term relief. For a long-term action plan, talk to an allergist.

No. 4: Wheezing

Photo of blocked airway.

Wheezing is often linked with asthma, but it can also be a sign of a serious allergic reaction. The whistling sound happens when you have to breathe through narrowed airways. In severe cases, you might need emergency care. Talk to your doctor if you have wheezing related to allergies.

No. 5: Itchy Skin

Photo of nummular eczema.

You may just be dried out. But if it doesn't stop itching or if it turns into a rash, you might have eczema. This skin reaction is common in people with allergies. Triggers include soap or detergent, pet dander, and rough fabrics. You can treat it with antihistamines, moisturizers, and hydrocortisone cream. For severe cases, your doctor can prescribe medications.

No. 6: Hives

Photo of hive outbreak.

These pale, itchy, red welts can last from several hours to several days. They're an allergic reaction to something like food, medication, or an insect sting. Antihistamines usually give immediate relief. You might need steroids if they don't help. The best defense is to find and avoid the trigger.

No. 7: Insomnia

Photo of man looking in fridge.

Itchy skin and eyes, a stuffy head, postnasal drip, sinus pain, and other allergy symptoms can make it tough to sleep. Coughing or wheezing may also make it hard to nod off. Some allergy meds can disrupt a good night's sleep. If you're lying awake a lot at night, it may be time to ask your doctor about changing your treatment plan.

No. 8: Trouble Concentrating

Photo of teenager reading.

It's hard to focus 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 allergies are putting a cramp in your work, home life, or relationships, call the doctor and talk about what you can do.

No. 9: Fatigue

Photo of woman yawning on ironing board.

Allergies can zap your energy levels. They make it hard to sleep. They send your immune system into overdrive, which wears you out. And the meds you take for them can make you sleepy. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Some newer products don't have that effect.

No. 10: Depression

Photo of man looking sick.

Do you feel blue when allergies flare? Scientists are looking into links between allergies, mood changes, and depression. Although we can't prove that allergies are to blame, there are treatments. Tell your doctor if you feel down.

Additional Information on Allergies

For more information about Allergies, please consider the following:



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  • All About Vision: "How to Get Rid of Puffy Eyes and Dark Circles."
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: "All About Hives (Urticaria)," "Allergic Diseases and Cognitive Impairment."
  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: "Asthma Overview."
  • Children's Hospital Boston: "Allergic Rhinitis."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Over-the-Counter: Choosing the Right Allergy Medications."
  • "Allergic Rhinitis - Antihistamines."
  • National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health: "Examining the Link Between Depression and Seasonal Allergies."
  • National Sleep Foundation: "Year-Round and Seasonal Allergies."
  • TeensHealth: "Eczema."
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