There are three main ways to tackle allergies. Prevention, short-term symptomatic relief and long-term allergy treatment including immunotherapy. Finding the perfect combination for your condition is likely to be the best approach and worthwhile. Allergy symptoms are not just a bother. They can affect your well-being and long-term health.
Untreated allergies can cause tiredness, irritability and headaches. They’ve also been linked to chronic sinus infections and lower respiratory conditions. And even the mildest symptoms are a bother. So why wait? Get a diagnosis so you can target your allergy with the right treatment.
Avoiding your allergens is an effective way to reduce symptoms. But some can be very difficult to avoid entirely. Like pollen or mold. When you can’t avoid it, try to minimize contact as much as possible.
An Allergy Action Plan is essential if you have more severe allergies, for instance to certain medications, food, insect venom or latex. It can help to control your allergies and avoid anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction affecting your whole body. Work with your healthcare provider to create this.
Saline is a simple way to ease nasal congestion and itchy eyes. Saline nasal sprays and eye drops are available as over-the-counter treatments from a pharmacy. A saline nasal spray may also make allergy relief medication like antihistamine work better.
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Saline filled rinsers (neti pot) and sprays may help to keep your nose clear of airborne allergens. Wash and dry the medical devices after every use to avoid picking up an infection.
Regular water vapor from a hot shower or steam from a bowl of boiled water can loosen mucus. This may ease an allergy cough. A humidifier, cough drops and water with honey and lemon can help with this too.
A face mask may reduce hay fever (allergic rhinitis) symptoms relating to the nose and your eyes too. Research suggests they helped people with pollen allergy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just watch out for skin reactions. It could be due to having the wrong type of mask for your skin, wearing it for too long or a pre-existing skin condition like allergic contact dermatitis.
Air purifiers with a HEPA filter remove particles from the air like pollen, dust and mold spores that may trigger allergy symptoms.
Antihistamines can help manage allergy symptoms like watery eyes and an itchy nose by blocking the effects of the chemical histamine. This is released in an allergic reaction when your immune system feels under threat.
Newer generation antihistamines are preferred now. They're also less likely to cause drowsiness. They come in tablet or liquid form and take about one to two hours to work. You can also get antihistamine nasal sprays, eye drops and creams. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor about what’s right for you.
Corticosteroids are another way to get allergy relief. Like antihistamines, they can help with things like hay fever symptoms. They’re also widely used for skin allergies such as atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis. Corticosteroids mimic a hormone made in your body and treat the inflammation that’s part of an allergic reaction.
Topical corticosteroids target a specific part of the body. That is, nasal steroid sprays for nasal stuffiness or corticosteroid creams for itching, swelling and redness of the skin. You can also get combination nasal sprays consisting of antihistamine and corticosteroid. This may reduce itching and sneezing as well as inflammation in your nasal passages. Some people with hay fever find this works well.
Systemic corticosteroids provide allergy relief to the whole body. They need to be prescribed and are usually done so for more severe allergies. They come as pills (oral corticosteroids) or injections.
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Decongestants can ease nasal allergies by drying out your airways. Decongestant nasal sprays shouldn’t be used for more than a few days or they may make symptoms worse.
Leukotriene receptor antagonists can ease lower respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath and provide allergy relief for hay fever. They are available by prescription only. Leukotrienes are another chemical released by the body when the immune system detects an allergen. This medication may be more effective than antihistamines at night.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe epinephrine if you’re at risk of anaphylaxis. It’s a good idea to carry two auto-injectors (one spare) for emergency treatment.
All the medications we’ve mentioned so far are to ease symptoms. This means they give short-term relief without addressing the underlying allergy. There is one long-term allergy treatment.
Immunotherapy targets the cause of the disease. Small doses of your trigger gradually retrain your immune system to react differently, thus reducing your allergy symptoms.
Yes, short-term symptomatic relief medications such as antihistamines and corticosteroids may help whatever your trigger. You could be allergic to pollen, dust mites or anything else and still use the same allergy treatment.
But it’s a bit different for long-term allergy treatment. Immunotherapy is available for many allergies and these are just a few:
Your healthcare provider or allergist identifies and diagnoses the allergen causing you the most bother. For example, if you have dust mite allergies all year and seasonal allergies make symptoms worse, they may suggest dust mite immunotherapy.
Any form of medicated allergy relief can cause side effects. Read the drug information leaflet carefully first. If you give allergy medicine to children, it must be specifically tailored for them.
Immunotherapy can cause some allergic symptoms at the start of treatment, because you’re being given doses of your trigger allergen. But the side effects usually fade over time. Where there is any risk, treatment takes place under medical supervision.
Managing allergies usually starts with avoiding your trigger. When you can’t, there are three main ways to tackle your hay fever or other symptoms; drug-free remedies, short-term allergy relief medication and long-term allergy treatment. Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the best combination.