Allergies can be tricky to manage and if left unchecked or untreated, can cause a lot of discomfort. However, there are a few options that can manage symptoms and maintain your quality of life. One just needs to look for the treatment that works for the allergy and fits the patient’s lifestyle and wallet.
The more common allergens include:
- grass and tree pollen – an allergy to these is known as hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
- dust mites
- animal dander, tiny flakes of skin or hair
- food – particularly nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cows’ milk
- insect bites and stings
- medicines – including ibuprofen, aspirin and certain antibiotics
- latex – used to make gloves
- mould – these can release small particles into the air that you can breathe in
- household chemicals – including those in detergents and hair dyes
Most of these allergens are generally harmless to people who are not allergic to them. Aside from removing the cause, certain types of medicines can also work.
These medications are most commonly prescribed for treating the sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes that come with allergies. Antihistamines also help to relieve hives and other symptoms of some food allergies.
The older versions of antihistamines such as such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) work well and have been around for some time. However, they tend to cause drowsiness, general lethargy or groggy hence most people take them at night.
With the newer generation of antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), desloratadine (Clarinex), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin) have been improved so they are far less likely to cause drowsiness at recommended doses. Their effects are also longer lasting, so usually you need to take them once daily instead of every few hours.
Ever had the stuffy, blocked nose that made you feel really uncomfortable? If so, you have probably turned to a decongestant to help relieve the stuffy, blocked-nose symptoms or nasal congestion. In the short term, they help to alleviate symptoms fast. However, medical experts warn against using too much of them as they increase your heart rate and blood pressure and keep you awake at night. In some cases, they can worsen prostate problems and glaucoma. For patients with chronic health conditions, especially heart related, do seek medical advice before turning to decongestants. Also, using these regularly can cause irreparable damage to the lining of the nose, so be sure to follow the directions exactly. Don’t use these too often, or for many days at a time.
Allergy shots are helpful in increasing an individual’s tolerance to the allergy triggers. Done by injecting small and increasing amounts of allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions) over regular intervals, this helps to manage the allergy by reducing its frequency. The treatment involves weekly injections with increasing doses for three to six months and then monthly injections for three to five years.
The treatment can be very effective for seasonal allergies that come with sneezing, nasal congestion, and itchy and swollen eyes. For urgent treatment of life-threatening allergy to stinging insects such as bee stings, allergy shots are almost always used.
One concern with the usage of allergy shots is the risk of a potentially serious allergic reaction from the shot itself. However, improvements in allergy extracts and dosing schedules have minimized this risk to what researchers estimate is about 1% of all allergy shots given.
At present, the only type of allergy for which allergy shots are not given are food allergies, in which case, general avoidance of the food is the most common treatment method.