Allergy Symptoms

These symptoms are due to the body's immune reaction to foreign substances. They can include itchy and watery eyes, itchy and runny nose and sneezing.

These symptoms are due to the body's immune reaction to foreign substances. They can include itchy and watery eyes, itchy and runny nose and sneezing.

Allergy symptoms happen when the body's immune system reacts in certain ways to foreign substances, known as allergens. Symptoms can include itchy and watery eyes, itchy and runny nose and sneezing. More severe symptoms can include swelling of the eyelids or other parts of the body and difficulty breathing.

  • In allergic rhinitis, the allergic reaction typically starts when an allergen enters the nose and comes into contact with the nose's moist internal lining. The immune system then reacts to what it sees as a foreign substance.
  • Allergens are separated into outdoor allergens (e.g., ragweed, grass, pollen and mold spores) or indoor allergens (e.g. house dust and mites, indoor mold, cockroaches and animal dander). Indoor allergies may be year-round. Outdoor allergies, also known as “hay fever,” are typically seasonal. It is important to remember that “hay fever” is not actually associated with a fever.

Some other reasons for a stuffy nose include:

  • Changes associated with aging
  • Reactions to cigarette smoke or other irritants
  • Nasal polyps
  • Deviated septum
  • Alcohol
  • Cold weather
  • Strong odors
  • Certain medications

In these cases, the symptoms are caused by irritation and not an allergy.

Allergy symptoms often run in families. If your parents have allergies, you are more likely to have them. Though many allergies start in childhood, they can also begin at any time of life. It is not known why some people have allergies and others do not. The first time you are exposed to an allergen, you will not have symptoms. However, your body will “recognize” the substance as an allergen and you will be sensitized. You may then have symptoms the next time you are exposed. If you have allergies and are exposed to an allergen, your first symptoms usually include:

  • Itching of the eyes and nose
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes

After a while, the initial symptoms can progress and lead to:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Post-nasal drip
  • “Plugged” ears
  • Other physical or behavioral symptoms

Allergy symptoms can vary a lot, but may become worse with successive exposures. Before you see a healthcare provider for your allergies, you can try some things at home. These include:

  • Keeping a diary to try to identify what is causing your symptoms
  • Reducing your exposure to the allergen or other irritants
  • Trying over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, eye drops and nasal sprays. Always follow the package directions as antihistamines can cause drowsiness. In addition, some nasal sprays can only be used for a few days due to side effects after longer use.

If you have heart disease, high blood pressure or an enlarged prostate, consult your healthcare provider before taking over-the-counter antihistamines.

  • If your symptoms persist, you may need to see your primary healthcare provider to find out what is causing your symptoms.
  • If needed, prescription medications and allergy testing may be recommended to confirm what substances you are allergic too.
  • If an allergen cannot be removed from your environment, or medications do not relieve your symptoms, allergy shots (also called immunotherapy) may be an option.

While allergy symptoms can improve with self-care, there may be times you need to see a healthcare provider for further treatment. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you have had them.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.
  • If your healthcare provider refers you to a specialist (i.e., an allergist or an ear, nose and throat doctor), ask why the referral is necessary.
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to take a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask why an over-the-counter medication cannot be used. If you doctor prescribes an allergy medication, ask for a generic version.
  • If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • Should I keep a diary?
  • What are some of the complications of allergies?
  • What treatment, if any, are you recommending? What options are available?
  • If medication is recommended, how long will I need to take it? What are the possible side effects?
  • How long will it take my allergies to improve?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?


Also known as:

Watery Eyes
Runny Nose
Runny Eyes
Nasal Congestion
Itchy Eyes
Eyes Itch
Allergy Symptoms
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