Allergies appear after relocation

Originally Published: August 2, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 4, 2009
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Hi Alice,

I relocated to a new area within the past six months. Since then, I have been experiencing congestion in the morning and pressure in my sinus area, such as stuffed nose and difficulty breathing, at night when I lay on my back and in the morning. Although I do not have a cold, I seem to always have a small amount of drainage on a daily basis. Within the past week, I am sneezing quite a bit in the mornings and at night, my eyes are so itchy I can't help but rub them to a nice shade of red. I have never had allergies before, just for your info. Thanks for any tips.

Dear Reader,

People can develop allergies at any age; in fact, some people develop allergies late into adulthood. So, the fact that you haven't had them before doesn't at all rule them out as a possibility now.

Although you've never had allergy problems before, it's quite possible that the area you've moved to has certain types of plants or grasses that you didn't have in your old location. Perhaps you're allergic to some of these things. Or, maybe the apartment or house you've moved in to was previously home to an animal to which you're allergic. If the prior tenants had a cat, for example, the dander could still be in the carpet. Or, your new home could have mold to which you're allergic (mold can grow behind wallpaper, in carpets, and in bathrooms, and kitchens). Or, maybe the previous tenant smoked, and you're allergic to the stale smoke clinging to curtains or carpet. If the congestion and pressure is really bothering you, talk with a health care provider to see if allergy testing makes sense. Students at Columbia can call x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator to make an appointment. Testing can help you identify what you are allergic to and can also help determine any treatment for your allergies.

Many allergy treatments are available these days, ranging from over-the-counter antihistamine medications, prescription antihistamines, allergy shots, nasal sprays, avoiding contact with allergens, to dietary changes. You might find yourself more comfortable after using one or more of these treatments. Over-the-counter antihistamines can make people drowsy, so avoid driving or operating machinery until you see how they affect you. You might be better off with a prescription antihistamine, many of which don't cause drowsiness. Over-the-counter decongestant nose sprays, however, should only be used for a day or two, because you can get dependent on them and then have extreme "rebound" stuffiness when you don't use them. Depending on what you're allergic to, and the severity of your allergies, desensitization shots can help you dampen down your body's allergic response, and decrease your symptoms.

Here are some basic things you can do to decrease allergy symptoms:

  • Cover all of your mattresses and pillows with allergy-proof cases to prevent exposure to dust mites. Dust mites are microscopically tiny bugs that live in warm, humid places. Using special allergy-free covers on your bedding can greatly cut down on your exposure to dust mites.
  • Wash your bedding in very hot water weekly to kill dust mites.
  • Vacuum frequently using a vacuum with a small-pore filter (which might better trap dust mites), dust often, and damp mop all floors — better yet, live without any carpeting, especially in your bedroom.
  • Discard or give away other furnishings that can trap dust mites (e.g., curtains, bed skirts, throw pillows, stuffed animals).
  • Consider getting an air purifier.
  • If you've got a pet, keep it out of your bedroom, or consider keeping it outside (if feasible).

Hopefully this new information will allow you to take a deep breath and help relieve some of the pressure!

Alice