Having allergies can turn into a nightmare and significantly complicate life. In some cases, an allergic reaction can be fatal, if not caught and treated immediately. Whether it’s a reaction to certain types of food, seasonal allergies, and hay fever, or a contact allergy, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and know how best to treat the allergy.
Allergy treatment options are widely varied, and the one that is best in any particular circumstance depends on the type of allergy and patient history. Since no two people are the same, the answer isn’t the same across the board. But with the variety of choices, there is certainly something to help everyone keep from suffering the symptoms of allergies.
Ten treatments for allergies
Before looking into allergy treatment, the best way to reduce allergy symptoms and allergic reactions is prevention. Avoiding the allergen or allergens that cause the reaction will not only reduce symptoms but also maintain better overall health. Since an allergy is an immune response, it can weaken your immune system to have an allergic reaction, which leaves the body more vulnerable to other, truly harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses.
However, there are a variety of ways to treat allergies. Most commonly, ten different options can be employed, from home treatments to prescribed medications and therapy options.
- Nasal flushing
- Anticholinergic nasal sprays
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Leukotriene inhibitors
- Mast cell inhibitors
- Nigella sativa
This is a home remedy recommended by physicians for added relief, which typically helps reduce stuffiness and irritation of the nasal passages and sinus cavities. Using a saline solution and a spray or squeeze bottle, the solution rinses excess mucus as well as trapped allergens from the nose and sinuses, flushing them out. The saline may also assist in reducing inflammation caused by allergies.
The chemical in the body that causes inflammation and excess fluid production based on an allergic reaction is histamine. Antihistamines work to block that production and reduce the amount of histamine in the system. They have been one of the longest, most reliable solutions for allergy symptoms, and many are available over the counter, with others requiring a prescription. They can be taken as pills, liquids, eye drops, or nasal sprays. Some antihistamines can lead to drowsiness, so it’s important to know which might affect the ability to function normally.
A decongestant is sometimes recommended alongside other treatment options for temporary symptom relief while antihistamines or other medications build up and start to take effect. A decongestant reduces swelling in the nasal cavities, which can also help reduce the itching and runny nose. However, a decongestant can’t be used indefinitely and should be limited to three to four days to avoid worse symptoms than the original allergic reaction.
Anticholinergic nasal sprays
This treatment option reduces the amount of mucus and fluid secreted from the glands that line the nasal passages. The reduced secretion means less runny nose, which can also assist with reduced itching and irritation to the nose. While this doesn’t guarantee that inflammation will go down, it could assist, since the glands won’t be working so hard.
The use of nasal spray steroids has become quite popular and has shown an increase in both over the counter and prescription areas when it comes to allergy relief. Steroids help reduce inflammation in the nasal passageways as well as the sinus cavities, and can even help with the airways. In addition, they tend to help strengthen the body to reduce any fatigue caused by the allergic reaction. They are approved for long term use and considered to be the most effective treatment on the market. For those that can’t tolerate a nasal spray, corticosteroids can also be prescribed as pills or as eye drops, though these aren’t as effective.
Leukotriene inhibitors and stabilizers
Montelukast, or Singulair, is a leukotriene stabilizer, or inhibitor as some call it. Leukotriene is a substance produced by the body to increase the amount of mucus produced, cause inflammation in the nose and sinus, and constrict airways in asthma patients. By blocking or stabilizing the production of the chemical, congestion, sneezing, itching, eye reactions, and even asthma symptoms are reduced.
Mast cell inhibitors
This type of treatment, such as Cromolyn sodium, must be taken on a regular basis and not as a “cure” to allergies. For example, to treat hay fever, treatment should begin at least a week or two prior to the start of growing season, when allergens run rampant. Used to block the production of histamine by mast cells, this type of treatment is not as strong and must be repeated several times a day, with effects lasting no longer than eight hours.
For some types of allergies, shots can help. This is a form of immunotherapy, in which trace amounts of the allergen causing symptoms is injected on a weekly basis for several years. The exposure conditions the body against an allergic reaction. This isn’t available for every known allergen and is often used for severe hay fever symptoms as well as for some food allergies.
While this has not been proven scientifically, there have been small studies showing promise for allergy relief with the use of nigella sativa, or black seed. It has worked to reduce wheezing and coughing in those with asthma and is believed to be a natural anti-inflammatory. It also has a number of antioxidants, which can help strengthen the body and its immune system, reducing the negative impact of a potential allergic reaction by keeping the immune system more in balance.
Especially for those with asthma, allergies can be dangerous. While it’s not common, some allergic reactions can lead to anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock. In these cases, during which a patient may grow extremely dizzy and lightheaded, could experience low blood pressure and heart rate, could lose consciousness, and could even stop breathing, immediate attention and treatment are needed. This is why people with severe allergies, especially related to food, should care an auto-injection of epinephrine, such as the Epi-pen, which can be injected instantly to help restore homeostasis until medical help arrives.