Allergy Causes & Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Perennial Allergies (and How Do I Treat Them)?

Photo of a person walking through a lush open field wearing a trench coat and carrying a suitcase.
Photo by Agustín Farias via Death to Stock

When you have a chronic condition like allergic rhinitis (the medical term for allergies), it always feels like a relief when you meet someone else who has it too. That is, until they start talking about how their symptoms only flare up in certain seasons, and you’re left thinking “I wish that were me” as you stock up on allergy medications yet again.

Living with allergies isn’t a walk in the park for anyone, but it’s understandable to be a little jealous of seasonal sufferers when you’re stuck dealing with symptoms year-round. Luckily, it’s just as possible to manage allergy symptoms when they’re perennial—it just takes a little more consistency.

Here’s everything you need to know about getting perennial allergy symptoms under control so you can enjoy your life in every season.

What exactly are perennial allergies?

You’ll know you’re dealing with perennial allergies when your symptoms don’t seem to care what season it is. No matter the weather, you’re always sniffling, sneezing, and tearing up. You might notice some variation in severity based on whether you’re indoors or outdoors, but over the course of the year, your symptoms are fairly consistent.

Perennial vs. seasonal allergies

It’s important to note that the specific symptoms of perennial allergies (which we’ll dive into in a bit) aren’t actually any different from seasonal allergies. So how can you tell the difference?

Again, the biggest hint is timing. If your symptoms significantly decrease or disappear entirely at certain times of year, that’s seasonal allergies. But if you’re constantly reaching for your preferred allergy medication year-round, you’re most likely a perennial sufferer.

To make things more confusing, both types of rhinitis are often called “hay fever,” even though they have nothing to do with hay and don’t typically cause fevers.

What causes perennial allergies? Why do I have allergies all year?

While you might be tempted to wonder if an ancient curse is the cause of your non-stop allergy symptoms, the actual causes of perennial allergies are much more ordinary. While seasonal sufferers are typically reacting to an environmental allergen like pollen, folks with perennial allergies are usually sensitive to indoor triggers instead (which is why the changing seasons don’t bring you any relief).

Common perennial triggers include indoor mold, dust mites, pet dander, and cockroaches (yes, cockroaches).

But why do these mundane (if a little gross) irritants make you sick when other people feel fine in the same room? Blame your overactive immune system. When your body’s defenders see one of your allergens, they react by sending in the troops—even though that mold or dander wouldn’t have done you any harm on its own. It’s that reaction that causes your allergy symptoms, not the allergen itself. Way to go, immune system.

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What are the symptoms of year-round allergies?

Symptom: Itchy and watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)

What this feels like: Irritated, itchy eyes you keep wanting to rub and touch. Your eyes may also be bloodshot or continuously watering.
Best treatments: To rapidly relieve itchy, watery eyes, you can try an antihistamine eye drop like azelastine. But if you’re constantly struggling with irritated eyes, it might be time to consider a preventive option. Oral antihistamines can help prevent symptoms, including that dreaded eye itch, by stopping your body from producing histamine (the chemical that causes allergy symptoms) in the first place.

Symptom: Mucus in the throat (post-nasal drip)

What this feels like: The uncomfortable sensation of mucus dripping into your throat. You might also be swallowing or clearing your throat often, or have a sore throat.
Best treatments: The best ways to treat post-nasal drip caused by allergies are typically antihistamines and nasal sprays, which fight the problem at its source: your nose. That said, post-nasal drip can have many other causes, including infections, so be sure to check in with your doctor if you’re not sure it’s allergies.

Symptom: Runny nose (rhinitis)

What this feels like: A constantly dripping nose that won’t quit no matter how many tissues you use. You might also be fighting congestion and the post-nasal drip we already mentioned. Best treatments: While oral antihistamines are just as good at stopping a runny nose as any other allergy symptom, you might want to face the problem head-on instead with a nasal steroid spray like fluticasone. It works by shrinking the swollen tissue in your nose, which reduces the amount of snot it can send running down your face. As for that congestion, you’re going to want to look into decongestants, for reasons you can probably guess based on the name.

Symptom: Sneezing and coughing (sternutation and tussis)

What this feels like: No matter what you try to do, there’s always a sneeze or cough ready to interrupt you. These symptoms tend to come along with a congested nose or a sore throat.
Best treatments: Even if you’re doing more coughing than sneezing, a nasal steroid spray can help prevent inflammation and the constant interruptions that come with it. You might want to follow that up with a saline nasal spray, a natural way to moisturize those worn-out nasal passages.

How do I treat perennial allergies?

  • Learn your triggers and stay away from them: The only thing better than treating your symptoms effectively is avoiding ever having them in the first place. That means figuring out what you’re allergic to and steering clear of it—which we know is easier said than done, especially when it comes to perennial allergies.
  • Take an antihistamine: Can’t avoid your allergen? Taking an antihistamine before you come into contact with it can still help you avoid the negative effects. Depending on your symptoms, you might also want to consider decongestants, nasal sprays, or leukotriene receptor antagonists, which target other chemicals like histamine that enable allergic reactions. If just reading all that made you confused, you can let a Picnic doctor recommend the right Allergy Pack for your specific needs—just take our quick quiz.
  • Keep food contained: If you’re allergic to cockroaches (or just don’t want them in your home), you should know that if you leave food out, chances are good that they’ll come to find it. So keep your trash cans covered, wash your dishes frequently, and be thorough about cleaning up spills and crumbs.
  • Start a deep cleaning routine: Unfortunately, even a rock-solid commitment to tidying up won’t usually be enough to get indoor allergies under control. That’s because allergens lurk in so many different places in your home, including soft surfaces like couches and bedding and moist environments like basements. Work out a plan to regularly deep clean your home, and don’t hesitate to replace your bed linens and pillows if your symptoms start to get worse.
  • Try a dehumidifier: While you’re cleaning your furniture and linens, a dehumidifier can make the air in your home just as inhospitable to your least favorite allergen. Cockroaches and mold love warm, wet environments, so add a dehumidifier to your shopping list if you’re allergic to either (or both) of them.

You don’t have to just put up with year-round allergy symptoms. Finding the right treatment can be tricky, but the best place to start is usually figuring out what you’re allergic to and how you can minimize your exposure to it.

When that’s just not enough, Picnic can help. Tell us about the symptoms and seasons that bother you most, along with a little about your treatment history, and we'll get you the personalized Allergy Pack and ongoing care you need to achieve peak relief.

ARTICLE REVIEWED BYAmina H. Abdeldaim, MD MPHPicnic Medical Director
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