Allergy Meds Not Working? It May Not Be Allergies at All (2024)

Between the runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and scratchy throat, allergies are no fun. To make matters worse, North Texas has had a longer-than-usual allergy season this year.

However, if you’ve been taking allergy medications with no relief in sight, the brand or type of medication may not be to blame — it may not even be allergies at all. The culprit might be something known as nonallergic rhinitis.

What is Nonallergic Rhinitis?

Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system that sends your body into defense mode when harmless substances, such as dust or pollen, are mistaken for germs. Your body releases chemicals known as histamines to attack the allergens — just as it does when fighting a cold. This can cause swelling in your nasal passages, a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, which many associate with an allergic response.

On the other hand, if there is nothing to cause your immune system to go into defense mode, then there is no reason for your body to release histamine. Therefore, if there is no histamine present in your body, antihistamines can’t relieve symptoms.

If you’re taking antihistamines and not finding any relief from symptoms, it may not be a “bad allergy season,” or that something is wrong with the brand of medication you chose. Instead, it may be something nonallergic that you’re reacting to, especially since nonallergic rhinitis shares the same symptoms as seasonal allergies.

What Causes Nonallergic Rhinitis?

So, if it’s not allergies, what’s causing it? There can be various triggers, including environmental, such as pollution, changes in weather or cigarette smoke, or occupational, such as cleaning chemicals. Strong perfumes, colognes or fragrances can also trigger symptoms.

Additional triggers can include:

  • Infections: Viral infections such as a cold or the flu commonly cause nonallergic rhinitis.
  • Foods and beverages: Hot or spicy foods or drinks can trigger symptoms, as well as drinking alcohol.
  • Certain medications: Medications that can cause nonallergic rhinitis include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and high blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers. It can also be triggered in some people by sedatives, antidepressants, oral contraceptives or drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction. Overuse of decongestant nasal sprays can cause a type of nonallergic rhinitis called rhinitis medicamentosa, or rebound congestion.
  • Hormone changes: Hormonal changes due to pregnancy, menstruation, oral contraceptive use or other hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism may cause nonallergic rhinitis.

While your body isn’t allergic to the items listed above, these things can irritate your sinuses, triggering symptoms.

How to Treat and Prevent Symptoms

Since symptoms between allergic rhinitis and nonallergic rhinitis are so similar, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the difference, and therefore use the appropriate treatment to find relief. In fact, 65% of people are wrongly prescribed antihistamines by their healthcare provider for nonallergic rhinitis.

If you believe your symptoms are the result of certain triggers like perfumes or smoke, treatment may be as simple as avoiding those items as much as possible.

Some people find using a humidifier at home or at work may also ease symptoms, as well as regularly rinsing your nasal passages with a saline (salt water) solution to clean out your nose and nasal cavities (nasal irrigation).

It's important to note that, according to the CDC, if you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave it open to air dry.

You may also be able to find relief using over-the-counter medications to help ease your symptoms. However, long-term decongestant use is discouraged due to its tendency to make congestion worse in the long run.

If you still can’t find relief, talk with your primary healthcare provider to find a treatment plan that will work for you.

While often frustrating, nonallergic rhinitis is rarely harmful and often gets better on its own without extreme measures.

Finding a physician who can partner with you for your health is essential. We can help find a physician that’s appropriate and convenient for you. Call 1-877-THR-WELL (847-9355) or visit TexasHealth.org/FindaProvider today.

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Allergy Meds Not Working? It May Not Be Allergies at All (2024)

FAQs

Allergy Meds Not Working? It May Not Be Allergies at All? ›

However, if you've been taking allergy medications with no relief in sight, the brand or type of medication may not be to blame — it may not even be allergies at all. The culprit might be something known as nonallergic rhinitis.

Why is my allergy medicine not working at all? ›

This could be due to medication resistance. This occurs when the body stops responding to medication due to frequent exposure or weakening of its effects. If this is the case, it's time to switch your allergy medicine and explore other options for controlling allergies.

Why won't my allergies go away even with medicine? ›

Your body's reaction to certain allergens can change over time, which means the medications you were taking might not be as effective. To get to the bottom of why your allergy meds aren't working, you'll want to talk to your healthcare provider. It's possible that it might be time for a specific IgE blood test.

What is an allergy like symptom but no allergies? ›

Nonallergic rhinitis involves sneezing or a stuffy, drippy nose. It can be a long-term problem, and it has no clear cause. The symptoms are like those of hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis. But nonallergic rhinitis isn't caused by allergies.

Why is my antihistamine not helping my allergic reaction? ›

Antihistamines may stop working because hives can become worse over time or because the intensity of hives can wax and wane over time. It's also possible that antihistamines become less effective because people aren't taking them as prescribed.

What to do for allergies when nothing works? ›

It may be time to see a doctor if your over-the-counter medicines no longer do the trick. Or you may need a new strategy altogether. These may be reasons why your allergies are worse. Think about how you can work with your doctor to get control of your symptoms.

What is the strongest antihistamine? ›

Cetirizine is the most potent antihistamine available and has been subjected to more clinical study than any other.

Why is my Zyrtec not working anymore? ›

Antihistamines can stop working because your allergies might be getting worse or you might have immune system changes due to aging. You also might not be taking the medication as directed. If you take an antihistamine after being exposed to an allergy trigger, it won't work as well.

What's better, Zyrtec or Claritin? ›

“Claritin is a 24-hour antihistamine that works in the same way as Zyrtec, however, research has found that Claritin may be less potent than Zyrtec and therefore less effective,” explains Dr.

Which is better, Allegra or Zyrtec? ›

Allegra and Zyrtec are common over-the-counter drugs used to treat allergy symptoms. Both drugs are safe and effective, but studies show Zyrtec's effects may last longer than Allegra's. Zyrtec is more likely to cause drowsiness. Drinking fruit juices can make Allegra less effective.

What if I test negative for allergies but still have symptoms? ›

If you tested negative to all 45 allergens, then you likely have either a sensitivity to a less common allergen or you have nonallergic rhinitis, which just seems like an allergy. At any rate, you certainly can get on with treatment. A combination of nasal sprays, antihistamines and eye drops (if needed) should help.

What are the four stages of rhinitis? ›

An alternative classification system groups allergic rhinitis by how long symptoms last and how severe they are:
  • Intermittent rhinitis. Occurs less than 4 days a week and for less than 4 weeks per year.
  • Persistent rhinitis. ...
  • Mild rhinitis. ...
  • Moderate-to-severe rhinitis.

How did I cured my allergies naturally? ›

8 Natural Remedies for Allergies
  1. Dehumidifier.
  2. Essential Oils.
  3. HEPA Filters.
  4. Herbs and Supplements.
  5. Nasal Spray.
  6. Neti Pot.
  7. Showering.
  8. Steam.
Dec 31, 2023

What is the new allergy medicine? ›

Xolair is the first FDA-approved medication to reduce allergic reactions to more than one type of food after accidental exposure.

Can you take two allergy pills if one isn't working? ›

Do NOT "double-up" on a dose. Do NOT take a dose sooner than you're supposed to. Do NOT take two different antihistamines at the same time. Instead, talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have trouble finding a drug that works well for your allergy symptoms.

Why can't you take two allergy pills in 24 hours? ›

Oral antihistamines, such as Zyrtec and Benadryl, shouldn't be taken together without a healthcare provider's OK. Combining two or more oral antihistamines can lead to additional side effects and potentially an antihistamine overdose. Signs of an overdose may include the following: Fast or racing heartbeat.

Why do I have never ending allergies? ›

Perennial allergies may occur at any time of year—unrelated to the season—or may last year-round. Perennial allergies are often a reaction to house dust. House dust may contain mold and fungal spores, fibers of fabric, animal dander, dust mite droppings, and bits of insects.

Why are all my allergies getting worse? ›

Scientists have reported that warming temperatures and other environmental factors have made seasonal allergens such as tree pollen, mold, and other spores worse over the past several decades.

References

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