When allergy season rolls around, it can seem like nearly everyone you meet is plagued with watery eyes and steady sneezing. And because you’re not afflicted with these classic allergy symptoms, you might think you’re immune to seasonal changes.
Think again. Not all allergy sufferers experience the same symptoms.
Plus, allergies can take many forms. And the same environmental allergen can trigger entirely different symptoms from one person to the next.
Sometimes, those symptoms can even slide under your radar because they don’t seem like classic allergic reactions.
Of course, not every symptom points to allergies. But some allergy symptoms are so subtle or unexpected, you might not even realize what’s going on.
Here are some sneaky signs that your random symptoms might actually point to allergies.
As always, the following is for information only. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health and/or medical issues, ask your doctor.
#1) Rashy or irritated skin
Environmental allergies can do more than stuff up your nose and dry out your throat. They can also wreak havoc on your skin in the form of hives and other red or itchy rashes.
This type of reaction may happen after breathing in or touching an environmental allergen, like pollen, pet dander or grass.
Other potential causes are food allergies, medication reactions and latex allergies.
Fatigue is more than just occasional tiredness. It’s a persistent feeling of being worn down. And loss of motivation and energy usually come as a package deal with fatigue..
If you’re worn out all the time, allergies could be at least partly to blame.
First, if you’re stuffed up or fighting postnasal drip, getting enough rest each night could be challenging. The more hours of sleep your allergic sniffles and sneezes cost you, the more tired you’ll be the next day. When this effect is compounded over a weeks-long allergy season, you’re bound to wind up exhausted.
To further complicate the matter, poor sleep quality may not be the only thing that contributes to allergic fatigue. Some medical experts suggest that the histamine released during a flare-up may also make you tired.
No matter the cause, this ongoing fatigue can leave you with a foggy brain. You might find it harder to study your schoolbooks or complete projects at the office.
Fatigue can signal a lot of different medical issues, so don’t be quick to assume it’s allergies. But if your ongoing weariness doesn’t get better with proper rest, check in with your doctor.
Environmental allergies are known for irritating noses. You may not realize just how bothered your nose is, though, until it starts bleeding. Blood may appear on the tissue when you blow your nose, or your pillowcase when you wake up in the morning, or even as a slow trickle that, seemingly unprovoked, drips from your nostril.
Allergies can be a nosebleed culprit because they dry out your nasal membranes. It doesn’t take much friction to break the blood vessels in dry, irritated membranes.
Rubbing and cleaning your nose can also induce trauma that leads to bleeding. Until you’re diagnosed with allergies, you may not realize just how much you mess with your nose throughout the day or in your sleep. Each blow, wipe or pick could be irritating your delicate nasal membranes.
#4) Facial swelling
Allergies can make you puffy. The official name for this is angioedema, which describes swelling under the skin because of fluid buildup. It typically occurs on the face, especially around the eyes or lips. But hands, feet and genitals can be affected too.
Some cases of angioedema are caused by environmental allergens like pet dander. Other times, the swelling may be part of an allergic reaction to insect bites, medication or food.
Angioedema is typically harmless, but it’s a good idea to touch base with your doctor if you’ve never experienced this symptom before. Some flare-ups can cause swelling in the throat, which is a potentially life-threatening condition that merits emergency medical care.
#5) Unpleasant breath
When you’re afflicted with allergies, your breath may pay the price, and friends and family may hesitate to get close.
You may have heard that postnasal drip is the cause of bad breath associated with allergies. According to experts at Mayo Clinic, that’s not the case.
It’s actually more likely due to breathing through your mouth.
When your nose is stuffy, you rely on your mouth for inhaling and exhaling. Unfortunately, that dries out your mouth, so there’s less saliva present for washing away odor-causing food particles and bacteria.
#6) Tooth pain
As you might know, environmental allergies can cause congestion. But even if you don’t feel sniffly, your body may have other ways of letting you know that your sinuses are stuffed up with mucus.
One of those signals is tooth pain.
Surprised? It makes sense when you think about how close together everything is on your face. The maxillary sinuses, for instance, aren’t far from your upper teeth. As these sinuses fill and expand, they can place pressure on the roots of your teeth, particularly the upper molars.
Some people experience this discomfort as pain that flares up when shifting positions — for example, moving from lying down to sitting up. Other people become more sensitive to hot or cold foods.
#7) Itchy mouth
Environmental allergies can cause reactions to some foods, too. You might even think you’ve developed a food allergy because your mouth starts to itch after you eat certain foods.
The most common culprits for this symptom are bananas and melons.
If these fruits give you an itchy mouth or throat, it might be a sign that you have a ragweed allergy. Banana and melon plants have proteins in their pollen that are similar to proteins in ragweed pollen. Scientists think that this similarity is responsible for the itching sensation.
Some people have this problem throughout the year, and others experience it only during ragweed season. Bananas and melons aren’t the only fruits that can trigger symptoms, though. So if other fruits or foods bother you, make sure to mention it to your doctor.
#8) Upset stomach
All sorts of allergies can cause stomach upset. Food allergies are some of the most obvious culprits, of course.
For people who are allergic to foods like milk or tree nuts, for instance, the symptoms can include cramps, nausea and diarrhea.
But environmental allergies that enhance mucus production may lead to stomach upset as well.
Every day, your body produces mucus, and much of it travels down your throat as postnasal drip. It’s not usually a problem, but when a lot of it invades your stomach at once, queasiness could ensue. Even if you’re not outright nauseated, you may experience reduced appetite.
Like other symptoms on this list, an upset stomach can point to different things. If you don’t find relief from your usual at-home care or OTC meds, or the stomach pain gets worse and doesn’t go away, ask your doctor about it.
Next Steps for Allergy Sufferers
If you identified with any of the above symptoms, it may be time to seek out some answers. Start with your primary doctor to rule out other causes. As we’ve mentioned, many of these symptoms could indicate something else. Your doctor might also have recommendations for a good allergist, i.e. someone who can test for specific allergies.
Allergy treatments vary based on what you’re allergic to and how much it’s affecting your day-to-day life.
Sometimes, treatment means making a few lifestyle changes to reduce your exposure to pollen, mold, dust mites and pet dander. This could include:
- Staying inside on days when pollen counts are high, especially if the weather is dry and breezy
- Masking up before tackling outside projects
- Opting for air conditioning over open windows
- Installing high-efficiency filters for your heating and cooling system
- Vacuuming and mopping more frequently
- Removing old carpet that’s harboring mold or pet dander (and possibly replacing your carpeting altogether with hard-surface flooring)
You may also need to start taking over-the-counter allergy medication, though always ask your doctor before taking any new meds. Even OTC drugs can interact with certain foods and other things you might be taking, so don’t wing it when it comes to medicine.
If lifestyle changes and non-prescription meds don’t do the trick, you may need a more aggressive plan of action. You can work with an allergist on that once you identify what’s triggering your symptoms.
Blood or skin tests can help the doctor identify these triggers. And with treatment options like prescription medications or allergy shots, you may finally find relief from your sneaky allergy symptoms.