Consumer Watch: Figuring out what you're allergic to

A 2018 study found that 37 percent of people who bought allergy meds from their pharmacy had never seen an allergist to find out what they're allergic to.

"In some cases, symptoms like sneezing, stuffy noses, etc. are not actually caused by allergies," says Consumer Reports Health Editor Catherine Roberts. "They're caused by something called non-allergic rhinitis."

Non-allergic rhinitis is a reaction to non-seasonal irritants.

You can get a reaction from specific foods, alcohol, odors, pollution, medication and even sudden changes in weather or temperature.

These symptoms often look like congestion, runny nose and sneezing, but without itchy eyes and sore throat.

"I don't use any aerosols," says Maria Moloney. "I don't use perfumes or hairspray because I do find any of these will trigger me to repeated sneezing."

So how can you know what's causing your symptoms?

If you notice you get congested after eating a particular food, or using a certain beauty product, try avoiding that item for a while and see if your symptoms go away.

It goes without saying that your best option is to see a professional.

"If you're not sure if you're experiencing an actual allergy or non-allergic rhinitis, head to the doctor and get an allergy test," Roberts said. "If the non-allergic rhinitis is the cause of your symptoms, then an allergist can prescribe ways to help you find relief."
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