What treatments are available for different types of allergies?

Allergies affect almost everyone since almost anything can trigger an allergic reaction. These reactions are caused by the immune system over-reacting to an allergen or the substance that causes the allergy. These reactions range from violent sneezing to itchy hives or in a more serious form, breathing difficulties.

To address these reactions, the first line of defense is avoiding allergens that cause these allergic symptoms. Minimizing your exposure to allergens will translate less episodes of sneezing, coughing and itching.

But since avoidance isn’t possible at all times, your doctor can prescribe allergy medications and treatments, the correct kind and combination of which depends on the kind of symptoms you exhibit. Allergy medications come in pill, liquid, spray, eye drop and topical forms. Some can be bought over-the-counter while others require prescriptions.

Always remember though that in taking medications whether OTC (over-the-counter) doctor-prescribed, consult with your doctor and inform him/her of your medical history before starting any allergy treatments.

Antihistamines
Histamines are chemicals released by the immune system as part of the reaction to an allergen. This substance is responsible for the inflammation or swelling of nasal passage, the skin or any other part affected by an allergy. As the name suggests, antihistamines prevent histamines to cause such reactions reducing redness, swelling, hives and watery eyes. They are prescribed in the form of liquids, sprays, pills and drops.

Corticosteroids
With the exception of some OTC creams, corticosteroids require a doctor’s prescription. Forms of corticosteroids include:

– Eye drops relieve symptomatic itching and redness of the eyes due to hay fever. Contra-indications include eye infections, glaucoma, and pregnancy. So if any of these apply to you, avoid using corticosteroid eye drops. Contact lens users are also more susceptible to eye infections when using these eye drops.

-Nasal sprays
Since it is administered directly to the affected area, nasal sprays are the preferred treatment for hay fever or allergic rhinitis to relieve stuffiness, runny nose and sneezing. However, relief may take time to set in and in some cases, only after regular use. Some of the side effects are an unpleasant taste, irritation that may cause nose bleeding especially during the winter months.

– Creams that come in varying strengths of dosages are good for itching and scaling skin. However, be cautious of continued use as they can sometimes cause skin irritation.

– Oral corticosteroids are prescribed for short periods to address more acute forms of allergic symptoms. But the long-term use of such has been known to cause side effects like cataracts and osteoporosis so prescription is regulated.

Leukotriene modifiers
These medicines work similarly to antihistamines in that they block the substances released by your immune system to aggravate allergic reactions. Leukotriene modifiers have been proven to treating allergic asthma and rhinitis.

Injectible epinephrine
Anaphylactic shock is a violent allergic reaction that affects key body functions such as the respiratory and cardiovascular system. This kind of reaction is similar to throwing a monkey wrench into a machine that puts the system in jeopardy. The danger of that kind of reaction is therefore very high.

If you’ve been diagnosed as very likely to exhibit violent allergic reactions to substances like bee stings or crustaceans (crabs, shrimps), you run the risk of going into anaphylactic shock. To be safe, your doctor may recommend that you carry with you at all times an injection of epinephrine.

Epinephrine is a powerful drug that slows down an allergic reaction while emergency medical treatment is being sought out to attend to you. Your doctor should be able to tell you how to use the self-injecting syringe and needle. It will also do you good to teach others as well in cases of emergency.

Immunotherapy
If your condition doesn’t see improvement in spite of medications or if taking them will incur adverse side effects, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy, which is the process of training your immune system not to react to substances that used to cause allergies for you. This can take as long as three to five years to finish. It is done by introducing extracts of the allergen into your body through a series of regulated injections. The goal is to make your body desensitized to the substance, which will eliminating or decrease your need to take medicines.

This method is especially effective for people allergic to substances that are found everywhere and cannot be avoided (such as dust and pollen). The procedure is also helpful in arresting the development of asthma in children.

There are about as many allergy medications as there are allergies themselves. By knowing and understanding how these medications work and with your doctor’s advice, you develop a treatment plan that works best for you.

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