We know having allergies can be annoying, but don't ignore the symptoms; it could lead to serious health problems.

By Maria Masters

It's tempting to write off your seasonal sniffling and sneezing as a minor annoyance, but leaving allergies untreated could lead to a serious health problem. Find relief and avoid these complications.

Risk #1: You could get a sinus infection.

Inhaling allergens causes your nasal and sinus passages to swell and become inflamed. When this happens, your body isn't as effective at draining fluids, which may result in an infection. Call your M.D. if you have pain or pressure in your cheeks or forehead. Clear up congestion with an OTC antihistamine, like Zyrtec, or a saline nasal spray, such as NeilMed Sinus Rinse.

Risk #2: Your work performance could suffer.

People lose an average of 2.3 hours a day of productivity when they're symptomatic, says a study. One reason: Allergy sufferers may have trouble breathing when they sleep, which makes them tired the next morning, says Jody Tversky, M.D., an associate clinical director in the division of allergy and clinical immunology at Johns Hopkins University.

Risk #3: You may have an asthma attack.

About 70% of people with asthma also have allergies. Grass pollen and ragweed are common late summer allergens, and breathing them in can cause wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath in people with asthma, says Dr. Tversky. Talk to your doctor—or an allergist—about whether you should undergo a skin test to determine your triggers.

Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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