Allergies happen when your body’s immune system reacts aggressively to environmental triggers known as allergens. Allergies are very common today, and it is estimated that over 50 million people in North America alone suffer from some type of allergy.1 While most people think that allergies tend to peak during springtime when there is a lot of pollen in the air, but the fact is that many people experience allergic reactions around the year as allergens can also be found inside your home.
During season change, it is common for people to suffer from itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, and overall unease due to the prevalence of many environmental allergens outside.2 However, regardless of whether you are allergic to grass pollen, weeds, molds, tree pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, here are some signs that will help you understand that your allergies are out of control.3
4 Signs Your Allergies Are Out Of Control
1. The Allergy Salute
The allergic salute is one of the biggest telltale signs of an allergy being out of control. You might be taking the utmost care to avoid the common allergens, such as using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, staying indoors during high pollen season, and taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor. However, if you constantly find yourself doing the allergy salute, it is a good indicator that your allergies are out of control.
People are most likely to get an allergic crease if they have an itchy, sneezy, and runny nose frequently. This crease may often disappear on its own, but in people with severe allergies, it may continue to linger permanently.4
The allergic salute refers to the upwards motion of your palms or fingers along the tip of your nose while sniffing in. When you carry out this action, it forces the nose to tilt upwards. When a person does this regularly out of the habit over long periods of time, the allergy salute can create a horizontal line that forms above the nostrils. This line is the nasal or allergic crease.5
Over time, the nasal crease can become hypopigmented, meaning it becomes lighter than the surrounding skin. Or it can also be hyperpigmented, meaning it is darker than the skin surrounding it.
Children are more likely than adults to get this allergic salute as they are more in the habit of wiping their nose upwards with their palms. Due to this, the nasal crease is also more commonly observed in children, especially those with allergies.
The treatment of a nasal crease depends on the age of the person who has it. In children who have a nasal crease, it can disappear on its own once the allergy gets treated. This is because once the allergy is treated, there is no longer itching in the nose, and the other symptoms related to the nose also disappear. This automatically reduces the desire or habit to swipe the nose upwards.6
In adults, the nasal crease may not disappear on its own. This is more common in those who have untreated allergies since childhood.
In some adults, the allergic salute may even become an embedded habit, which a person does without even noticing it for many years. People with a permanent nasal crease can see a dermatologist to find out the treatment options.
If the nasal crease is hyperpigmented, an over-the-counter hydroquinone bleaching cream along with hydrocortisone can help. Avoiding sun exposure also helps.
If the crease is hypopigmented, then medical tattooing, scar excision, laser therapy, and other similar therapies may be used.
2. Allergic Shiners
Dark circles under your eyes are another common sign that indicates your allergies are out of control. This occurrence is known as allergic shiners or allergic facies. The medical term for this is periorbital venous congestion. This symptom of allergies can present itself as dark circles under your eyes and may look like bruises or having a black eye.7
Allergic shiners are caused due to the accumulation or pooling of blood under the eyes, caused by the swelling of the tissue in your nasal passages. While this is not generally considered to be a serious medical problem, but they may be unsightly and can make a person feel self-conscious. Allergic shiners can be treated and even prevented by seeking proper allergy treatment and, of course, by avoiding your allergy triggers.8
Though allergic shiners look the same as black eyes, both the conditions are very different. If you have allergic shiners, the blood that has accumulated has difficulty draining from the veins in your face due to the swelling caused by the allergy in that particular part of your face and head.
On the other hand, black eyes are usually caused by trauma, and the bleeding that happens in black eyes takes place under the skin due to damaged or broken capillaries or veins.
People with allergic shiners also tend to experience other common symptoms of nasal allergies, including:
- Sneezing and an itchy, runny nose
- A blocked nose
- Itchy or watery eyes or red eyes
- Congestion of nose and sinuses
- Chest tightness
- A wheezing sound when you breathe
- Shortness of breath
- Raised, itchy, red rash or hives
- Swollen tongue, lips, eyes, or face
- Itchy throat
- A general feeling of being unwell
Usually, most people end up mistaking these allergy symptoms as the onset of the common cold, flu, or even a sinus infection, especially if these symptoms occur out of season. However, the key to allergy symptoms is that they tend to persist for a longer time than the symptoms of these other conditions. Allergy symptoms also usually do not cause a fever or body ache.
The congestion in the sinuses and nasal passages caused by allergens is the primary cause of allergic shiners. This congestion blocks the drainage of blood from these areas, thus causing the small veins underneath the eyes to become wider and accumulate with blood. This excess blood and swelling become visible below the eyes as the skin here is quite thin. This accumulation of blood appears as dark circles.
People with seasonal allergies may find that allergic shiners are only present during a particular time of the year, which can help them pinpoint the source of their allergy. For example, if you notice you have allergic shiners in spring, it typically indicates an allergy to pollen.
If you find that this symptom is persisting, regardless of whether you have other allergy symptoms with it or not, it is important that you visit a doctor and get a proper diagnosis. The treatment for allergic shiners involves treating the underlying allergy. Treatment will focus on decreasing congestion in your sinus and nasal cavities.9
3. Having a Chronic Stuffy Nose
When you have the flu or a cold, having a stuffy nose is common, and it should disappear within a week or two. However, if this type of congestion continues on and on, it is likely that the underlying cause of your stuffy nose is allergies.10
When you have an allergic reaction, the lining of your nose becomes inflamed and starts producing extra mucus. You may also experience headaches and sinus pressure.
Chronic congestion is usually caused by something that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. Sometimes, congestion can also be caused by allergens, such as car exhaust and tobacco smoke. Since chronic nasal congestion can also be caused by a tumor, it is recommended that you consult your doctor if you feel like you always have a stuffy nose.11
Home remedies are usually enough to relieve nasal congestion. However, in long-term congestion, you might need proper medical treatment. Using humidifiers to add moisture to the air in the room may help break down the excess mucus and also helps soothe the inflamed nasal passages.12
Sleeping by propping your head up on pillows can also help the excess mucus to flow out of the nose.
Using saline sprays can also help and are considered to be safe for all ages, but it is best to avoid using them in infants.
Consult your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:
- Congestion that lasts for over ten days
- Congestion that is accompanied by a high fever and lasts over three days.
- Green nasal discharge, along with fever and sinus pain.
- If you have asthma, emphysema, or a weakened immune system, and over this, you are experiencing chronic congestion.
Some of the medications used for treating nasal congestion include:
- Antihistamine nasal sprays such as azelastine (brand name Astepro and Astelin)
- Oral antihistamines that treat the underlying allergy, including cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec) and loratadine (brand name Claritin).
- Prescription-strength or over-the-counter decongestants13
- Nasal steroids, such as fluticasone (brand name Flovent HFA and Flovent Diskus) or mometasone (brand name Asmanex Twisthaler)
One of the causes of chronic congestion can also be tumors or nasal polyps, and your doctor may recommend surgery to have them removed.
Wheezing is usually a symptom associated with asthma. However, wheezing is also a common symptom of seasonal allergies or even a serious allergic reaction. Wheezing is a type of whistling sound that comes when you breathe. It is usually heard clearly when you exhale. But, in severe cases, you can also hear the wheezing sound when you inhale. Wheezing is caused by inflammation of the airways or narrowing of the airways.14
It is essential to keep in mind that wheezing could be a symptom of a serious underlying breathing problem that needs early diagnosis and treatment.
While wheezing tends to go away once your allergy is treated, you should still tell your doctor if you experience wheezing for the first time. You should also note whether you are having difficulty breathing.
In serious cases, wheezing may be accompanied by hives, difficulty breathing, a swollen throat or face. In such cases, emergency medical care is required. Call 911 or the emergency number of your area.
There are treatments for wheezing, which aim to first control the inflammation in the airways, and second, open up the breathing tubes. Prescription anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce inflammation and also reduce excess mucus in the airways. These medications are usually available in the form of inhalers, but sometimes your doctor may also prescribe long-acting tablets. In young children, syrups will be prescribed.
Bronchodilators are another quick-acting medication that is usually used for treating wheezing. These drugs work by relaxing the smooth muscles that are located around your breathing tubes. If you have long-term illnesses like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as well as allergies, your doctor may recommend both bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications.
When you have allergies, even after taking medications, relief may remain out of reach. By trying out natural, home remedies along with proper medical treatment, you can manage your symptoms and have a better quality of life. Avoiding allergens as much as possible can also help you with these chronic symptoms. Remember that a proper, well-balanced diet and regular exercise will help strengthen your immune system and help you fight off common allergens and infections.
- Strachan, D., Sibbald, B., Weiland, S., Ait‐Khaled, N., Anabwani, G., Anderson, H.R., Asher, M.I., Beasley, R., Bjorksten, B., Burr, M. and Clayton, T., 1997. Worldwide variations in prevalence of symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in children: the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). Pediatric allergy and immunology, 8(4), pp.161-168.
- Damialis, A., Traidl-Hoffmann, C. and Treudler, R., 2019. Climate change and pollen allergies. In Biodiversity and Health in the Face of Climate Change (pp. 47-66). Springer, Cham.
- MICHAEL, S. and COOPER, O., 2019. How climate change affects allergies. Allergy.
- Ramot, Y., Maly, A., Zlotogorski, A. and Nanova, K., 2010. Atypical” allergic crease”. Journal of Dermatological Case Reports, 4(3), p.36.
- Myers, W.A., 1960. The Nasal Crease: A Physical Sign of Allergic Rhinitis. JAMA, 174(9), pp.1204-1206.
- Fireman, P., 2000. Therapeutic approaches to allergic rhinitis: treating the child. Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 105(6), pp.S616-S621.
- Carlson, R.E. and Hering, P.J., 1981. Allergic shiners. JAMA, 246(8), pp.835-835.
- Kelso, J.M., 2010. How allergic are” allergic shiners”?. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 125(1), p.276.
- Chen, C.H., Lin, Y.T., Wen, C.Y., Wang, L.C., Lin, K.H., Chiu, S.H., Yang, Y.H., Lee, J.H. and Chiang, B.L., 2009. Quantitative assessment of allergic shiners in children with allergic rhinitis. Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 123(3), pp.665-671.
- Naclerio, R.M., Bachert, C. and Baraniuk, J.N., 2010. Pathophysiology of nasal congestion. International Journal of General Medicine, 3, p.47.
- Davis, S.S. and Eccles, R., 2004. Nasal congestion: mechanisms, measurement and medications. Core information for the clinician. Clinical Otolaryngology & Allied Sciences, 29(6), pp.659-666.
- Stewart, M., Ferguson, B.J. and Fromer, L., 2010. Epidemiology and burden of nasal congestion. International journal of general medicine, 3, p.37.
- Passàli, D., Salerni, L., Passàli, G.C., Passàli, F.M. and Bellussi, L., 2006. Nasal decongestants in the treatment of chronic nasal obstruction: efficacy and safety of use. Expert opinion on drug safety, 5(6), pp.783-790.
- Rusconi, F., Galassi, C., Corbo, G.M., Forastiere, F., Biggeri, A., Ciccone, G., Renzoni, E. and SIDRIA Collaborative Group, 1999. Risk factors for early, persistent, and late-onset wheezing in young children. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 160(5), pp.1617-1622.
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