Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance — such as pollen, bee venom or pet dander — or a food that doesn’t cause a reaction in most people.
Your immune system produces substances known as antibodies. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify a particular allergen as harmful, even though it isn’t. When you come into contact with the allergen, your immune system’s reaction can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system.
The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening emergency. While most allergies can’t be cured, treatments can help relieve your allergy symptoms.
Allergy treatments vary depending on the severity of your condition and the type of allergy you have.
If your allergies are severe enough to significantly interfere with your quality of life, it’s important to see a doctor in order to identify what you are allergic to and to gain access to the full range of prescription options.
Here are a few treatment options for allergies:
Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a form of treatment to prevent allergic reactions by building up the immune system’s resistance. This is done through controlled exposure to substances that the person may be allergic to. Allergy shots from your doctor can be one of the most effective ways to treat seasonal allergies. These shots work kind of like a vaccine in that a small amount of the allergen is injected into the patient’s arm. This triggers a mini immune response that can block a more significant allergic reaction when the patient comes into contact with the allergen. Injections usually start off around once a week and then gradually become less frequent. Shots can provide relief from more than one allergy. Our patients are also having success with new immunotherapy tablets take orally for a limited range of allergens, including ragweed, grass, and pollen.
Prescription nasal sprays: Perhaps the most commonly used remedies for certain allergy-related symptoms are nasal sprays. There are several different sprays available, both OTC and prescription, that can temporarily help relieve sinus-related symptoms. When a runny nose and sneezing are the main problems, patients can access a range of prescription nasal sprays containing corticosteroids (to reduce inflammation) or antihistamines (which prevent congestion by blocking the histamines your body produces).
Over the counter medications: while some patients require prescription strength treatment, many of our patients have success with over the counter medications and nasal sprays. These include over the counter antihistamines like the popular drug Loratadine which often works well for treating runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing. Over the counter corticosteroid nasal sprays like Flonase are also increasingly popular, but as always, patients should consult their primary care provider before trying a new medication for seasonal allergies.