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Consumer Reports: When seasonal allergy symptoms are not allergies

Posted at 4:00 AM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-16 09:54:48-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - A 2018 study found that 37% of people who visited their local pharmacy and purchased over the counter allergy medication, didn’t have an allergy diagnosis from their doctor. So, what if they actually have something else going on?

“In some cases, symptoms like sneezing, stuffy noses etc are not actually caused by allergies," says Consumer Reports Health Editor, Catherine Roberts. "They’re caused by something called nonallergic rhinitis.”

Nonallergic rhinitis is triggered by non-seasonal things like, food, alcohol, odors, smoke, perfume, pollution, medication and even quick changes in the weather or temperature. Its symptoms often look like those of allergies: Congestion, runny nose and sneezing but without itchy eyes and sore throat. So how do you know what’s causing your sneezes?

“If you're not sure if you're experiencing an actual allergy or nonallergic rhinitis, head to the doc and get an allergy test," says Roberts. "If the nonallergic rhinitis is the cause of your symptoms then an allergist can prescribe ways to help you find relief.”

You could try a saline rinse using a neti-pot or bulb syringe. If you have persistent symptoms, consider asking your doctor for a prescription spray that contains the antihistamine azelastine or steroids.