Can You Develop Allergies as an Adult? and Other Top Sinus-Related Questions
October 28, 2021
A lot of patients see me for questions about their sinus health and the relationship with environmental allergies. This is a really common issue throughout the United States; allergies are actually becoming more common. These are the most common questions I hear in my practice:
Can Allergies Affect Me All Year?
Yes! A lot of people are surprised to learn that there are all-year allergens that might affect them. While every season brings a host of new flowering plants to tickle your nose, you can also develop allergies to things that are present in your home no matter the season. Unfortunately, dust mites and cockroaches are hard to avoid, so if you have allergies to these critters you may have trouble the whole year around.
Can I Develop Allergies As an Adult?
Yes! Allergies can evolve over your life. You can develop allergies later in life even if you tested negatively in the past. Or you may be lucky and outgrow allergies you had as a kid. So don’t be surprised if your doctor suggests you may have allergies even if you didn’t have issues in the past. Allergies do tend to run in families; so you may be more likely to develop allergies if you have a family history of allergies, asthma, and/or eczema (dry skin).
Do I Need to Treat My Allergies?
That’s up to you! You should think about environmental allergies as a chronic disease. Thankfully there is a spectrum of allergy. Most people have minor symptoms which don’t bother them often. But sometimes people have severe responses to allergens and over time can even develop nasal polyps that will block their breathing. How severe your symptoms are should prompt how aggressively you decide to manage your allergies.
Which Medications Should I Use?
I think that this is dependent on what symptoms you have. For nasal symptoms I recommend starting with safe, over-the-counter nasal sprays like saline (salt water) and corticosteroids (examples are fluticasone or triamcinolone). These are designed to lessen swelling in your nose. These are very safe to try but on average take almost four weeks to be fully effective. You should avoid using decongestant sprays like Afrin (oxymetazoline) or Neo-synephrine (phenylephrine) because these can be habit-forming.
For symptoms outside the nose (like constant sneezing or itchy eyes and throat) you might want to try an over-the-counter antihistamine (examples are cetirizine or loratadine). These medications block your body from releasing inflammatory chemicals, which cause allergic symptoms. These medications are also very safe, but some people find that they make them a little sleepy.
For other issues or more personalized questions, schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist.
William Colby Brown, MD, is an otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) specialist at University Hospitals.
The ear, nose and throat specialists at University Hospitals provide comprehensive ear, nose and throat care for children and adults. We have the advanced medical and surgical expertise to diagnose and treat a full spectrum of conditions that range from allergies, sinus problems and hearing loss to complex head, neck and skull-based tumors. Learn more about ear, nose and throat services at University Hospitals.