William & Mary


Allergies are a result of a mucosal reaction to an airborne allergen (examples are dander, pollen, mold, dust mites). Seasonal allergies (also called hayfever) occur in relation to seasonally present allergens (tree, weed, or grass pollens). Perennial allergies occur year around (molds, dust mites, dander).

What are the symptoms of allergies?

The most common symptoms of allergies include:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion 
  • Itchy or watery eyes 
  • Sore throat 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sneezing
  • Post-nasal drip

As opposed to a cold, a fever is not present, and the symptoms persist beyond the usual 7-10 days that characterize a virus.

What should I do if I have symptoms of allergies?

If the allergen can't be avoided, then try an over the counter (OTC), non-sedating antihistamine, i.e.: Cetirizine (generic for Zyrtec) or Loratadine (generic for Claritin). Other antihistamines are available OTC, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), however, they may be more sedating. A decongestant such as pseudoephedrine (must be obtained behind the pharmacy counter or at the SHC front desk) can be used for congestion (Phenylephrine (PE) is not an effective decongestant). Afrin or Neo-Synephrine nasal spray can also be used for congestion, but only for 3 or 4 days at a time.

Other measures: Keep your windows closed (use air conditioning if available in warm weather), wash your hair before bedtime to remove pollen, use pillow and mattress covers designed to keep dust mites out of the bedding, wash linens weekly.

Other useful information can be found at UpToDate.