Can Allergies Redevelop?
Q. I am a 40-year-old stay-at-home mom who works as a freelance writer and have noticed that I might be starting to develop allergies for the second time in my life. As a child, I had eczema and nasal allergies to ragweed. I outgrew these problems as a teen and had been relatively well until now. Since the beginning of August, I have developed chronic watery, itchy, red eyes with a runny nose and a cough. My husband also mentioned that my breath has started to change. Could I be redeveloping allergies at this point in my life?
A. Yes, this could certainly be occurring. Typically "redeveloping" allergies later in life is caused by a combination of allergic and "non-allergic" triggers. If symptoms are increased while being outdoors during a typical pollen season - such as ragweed at this time of year - this suggests an allergic basis. Ragweed pollinates from mid-August through "Indian Summer" until the first frost in the Northeastern U.S., but this varies depending on location, with pollination somewhat earlier the further south one lives. Tears drain naturally into the nose, and can cause a postnasal drip. In addition, allergenic pollen irritates the nasal lining causing sneezing, congestion and even at times blocks the sinus openings leading to sinus pressure or "sinus headaches". One should also consider non-allergic triggers, as your work likely has you staring at a computer for several hours day which can increase non-allergic dry eye issues, or potentially nasal congestion if exposed to cold air blowing from a nearby AC vent. Windy conditions additionally can increase eye dryness and irritation, as well as nasal symptoms. These are just some of the potential non-allergic triggers. Oral antihistamines may block the itch of allergies, but they also decrease tear formation causing eyes to feel dry and "gritty". The use of medications topically applied to the eyes and nose would be ideal, and an allergist can best assess your triggers and get you relief from these symptoms.