Chances are high that you or someone you know suffers from allergies. Over 50 million Americans have some type of allergy. Stuffy, runny nose. How do you treat allergies and their symptoms?
Common symptoms include eye inflammation, congestion, sneezing, coughing, fatigue, and headaches. These symptoms can be frustrating and sometimes inhibiting. Luckily, there are many treatments available.
Allergy treatments come in various forms. You can use pills, inhalers, liquids, nasal sprays, eye drops, creams, and injections. Many of them are available over the counter, while some require a prescription. Always talk to a doctor before taking allergy drugs to learn the best way to use them.
In this article, we’ll discuss different allergy treatments and which is best for you.
You’re probably familiar with Claritin, Zyrtec, and Benadryl to treat allergies. These are antihistamines, which work by blocking the release of histamine in the body. When in contact with an allergen, the body creates histamine, which leads to inflammation and an allergic reaction.
Antihistamines can treat the following allergy symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Hives (urticaria)
Older generations of antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, cause fatigue and drowsiness. The newer generations, like cetirizine and fexofenadine, are less likely to cause these side effects.
You can also get prescription antihistamines like azelastine and olopatadine. These are available as nasal sprays and relieve congestion and postnasal drip. Eye drops such as ketotifen and olopatadine are also available to treat eye irritation from allergies.
Decongestants are a common allergy treatment used to provide quick relief for nasal and sinus inflammation. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is available over-the-counter. Prescription decongestants may also contain an antihistamine, such as fexofenadine plus pseudoephedrine.
There are some side effects associated with decongestants including sleep problems and headaches. People with high blood pressure shouldn’t take decongestants as they can increase blood pressure. They also aren’t recommended for those with heart diseases, glaucoma, and hyperthyroidism.
Corticosteroids come in various forms like tablets, nasal sprays, droplets, creams, and inhalers.
Nasal sprays like budesonide and triamcinolone treat allergy symptoms like congestion and sneezing. Some people experience an unpleasant taste from these treatments. To avoid this, you can use corticosteroid aerosols such as beclomethasone.
Inhaled corticosteroids are often used in cases of asthma triggered by airborne allergens. In some cases, the inhaler combines corticosteroids and bronchodilators. Side effects of these combination inhalers include dry mouth, hoarse voice, headaches, and an increased heart rate.
For eye allergies, one may use corticosteroid drops, such as fluorometholone, for treatment. In the case of eye allergies, a specialist should monitor the treatment. Side effects of these drops include infections, glaucoma, and cataract.
Typically, oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are reserved for severe allergy symptoms. The reason for this is because using corticosteroids long-term can cause or worsen high blood pressure.
Corticosteroid creams can help treat allergies that cause itchy or swollen skin. Low-potency steroid creams are available over the counter. But regular strength creams require a prescription. You should only use corticosteroid creams in the short term to avoid side effects like thinning hair and hormonal imbalances.
Mast Cell Stabilizers and Leukotriene Inhibitors
Mast cell stabilizers work by blocking certain chemicals involved in the allergic response. These drugs have a great safety profile, but the effects and benefits are seen after several days of use. Cromolyn is an example of a mast cell stabilizer and is available over-the-counter as a nasal spray or eye drops.
Leukotriene inhibitors are another class of anti-allergy drug treatment, available by prescription. As the name implies, these drugs inhibit leukotrienes, substances involved in allergic reactions. Montelukast is a leukotriene inhibitor recommended for hay fever allergies. Side effects of these drugs include anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and suicidal thoughts.
Immunotherapy is a long-term method to treat allergies. It involves gradual exposure to an allergen as a way to train the immune system to no longer react to it. Doctors most often recommend immunotherapy when other allergy treatments fail.
This method involves a series of injections over time. Side effects may include allergy symptoms like sneezing, hives, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis.
Newer forms of immunotherapy use oral tablets instead of injections. The patient places the tablet, which includes the allergen, under their tongue and waits for it to dissolve. These sublingual tablets are available for dust mite and grass pollen allergies.
Biological allergy treatments target specific immune reactions, trying to prevent them. Some examples of biological medication include dupilumab and omalizumab, available in injection form. Adverse reactions include muscle or joint pain, itchy skin.
There are some more serious side effects to consider. While they are rare, they include:
- Increased heart rate
- Severe hives
- Skin rashes
- Puffiness of the face and tongue
- Tightness in the chest
- Malignant tumors
Talk to your doctor before using biological treatments.
Some allergies cause a severe, life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction requires immediate medical treatment.
Epinephrine is the most important and effective drug for anaphylaxis. This powerful drug relieves all symptoms and signs of the reaction. Everyone with a history of severe allergies should have an Epinephrine Kit at home. Second injections are sometimes needed if symptoms don’t disappear.
If someone is experiencing anaphylactic shock, call 911 immediately for emergency treatment.
In some cases, the person may need intubation. Other therapies to treat anaphylaxis include IV fluids, vasopressor medication, antihistamines, and inhaled beta-agonist drugs.
There are many ways to treat allergies. From oral tablets to sprays to injections, you have many options to relieve symptoms. It’s important to always read the potential side effects and warnings. Some allergy treatments may cause side effects and your doctor will need to switch to other drugs.
Finding the right allergy treatment is important to live a comfortable life. Don’t let your allergies prevent you from going about your everyday activities.