Do you experience a stuffy nose in the spring? You might have allergies.
Allergies are so common that the symptoms are often written off as “just my allergies.” In fact, researchers estimate that 50 million people in the United States alone suffer from nasal allergies – and the number of stuffed up sufferers is only increasing.
If you have severe allergies, then you know your symptoms are a big problem, even if you don’t want to admit it publicly. Severe allergies are hard to ignore because they don’t only cause misery on their own. Allergies are also the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States.
Your allergies may be a part of life, but you shouldn’t ignore them. And you don’t need to because there are so many available treatments available to you regardless of what you’re allergic to and the severity of your symptoms.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the most common allergy treatments.
Do You Have Allergies?
Before you start thinking about allergy treatments, you need to determine whether you’re dealing with an allergic reaction or something else.
Distinguishing the two is not as easy as it sounds. It’s easy to mistake allergies with strange rashes and even persistent head colds. But finding out is critical because allergies require treatment that other health issues might not respond to.
In other words, find out whether you have allergies fast to get the treatment you need right away.
If you’re worried your symptoms are the result of allergies, visit your doctor who will then refer you to an allergist-immunologist.
Visiting an Allergist-Immunologist
If you have severe allergies, you know that treatment isn’t as simple as buying an over-the-counter antihistamine. In fact, it sometimes feels as though Claritin and other common allergy treatments only make your symptoms worse.
Severe allergies require a targeted treatment provided by a physician. You’ll begin by visiting your general physician, who can provide stronger antihistamines and a referral to a board-certified allergist or allergist-immunologist. Though, it’s also possible to visit the allergist directly.
An allergist-immunologist uses your previous medical history to determine what you’re allergic to and the severity of your allergies. In addition to looking at your history, the physician will also ask you to describe your symptoms on a scale and will also perform a physical exam, often listening to your lungs.
The defining test is commonly referred to an allergy test. These tests are now performed one of two ways depending on the clinic you attend, your symptoms, and your preference. Skin tests involve pricking your skin with allergens to elicit an immediate reaction to as many as 40 different allergens at one time. Blood tests measure the level of immunoglobulin E in your blood and are used to test for food allergies.
These tests are critical for narrowing down the exact cause of your symptom. Without the exact cause, you’ll have a difficult time treating your allergies because you might not even know what you’re allergic to.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Severe Allergies
Once you’ve received a precise diagnosis, the allergist can present the most appropriate course of action.
One of the most common questions allergists receive is about how to cure allergies. Unfortunately, there’s no permanent cure – only treatments to alleviate symptoms. However, some treatments may be successful enough to act as a cure, leaving behind only mild symptoms.
The two most common types of severe allergy treatments are medication and immunotherapy with immunotherapy serving as a cure-like solution in some cases.
There are numerous allergy medications available both in prescription form and over the counter. Your doctor will prescribe a medication based on your symptoms and the kind of allergies you have.
If your biggest symptom is a running or stuffy nose, a doctor may prescribe:
- Nasal corticosteroids
- Mast cell stabilizers (in nose spray form)
Symptoms manifested in rashes or skin conditions may be treated with:
- Corticosteroids (creams or ointments)
- Oral corticosteroids
If your allergies affect your airways and result in anaphylactic episodes, you’ll likely be prescribed epinephrine in a self-injectable device. If you have been prescribed epinephrine, then you may also be told to carry the prescription with you wherever you go, including leaving one at home, work, and/or school.
Epinephrine is considered to be the first-line treatment for all anaphylaxis by many of the nation’s leading medical associations regardless of whether the episode is caused by allergies or asthma. Delivering epinephrine promptly greatly reduces hospital admissions, morbidity, and mortality in people with severe allergies.
Finally, there is no ‘best medication for severe allergies’. The medication that works best for you depends on the type of allergies you have, the severity of your symptoms, and your body’s immune response to the treatment and irritants.
Some allergy patients find that immunotherapy is the best course of treatment. Immunotherapy occurs in the form of regular injections designed to prevent allergic reactions. However, it is also now provided in the form of sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT.
Immunotherapy treats allergies to:
- Stinging Insects
It is not effective for food or medicinal allergies as well as feathers or eczema.
Most commonly referred to as allergy shots, those who are prescribed immunotherapy will receive regular injections with an increasing dose of an allergen over time.
So, if your allergist finds you have severe allergies to dust and pollen, you may get two regular injections: one for dust and one for pollen. The injections allow your body to develop an immune response to the allergens and strengthen your response to these allergens when you encounter them in the wild.
SLIT is an immunology treatment delivered through a small tablet placed under your tongue. The tablet contains the allergen in much the same way as the injections. While SLT is effective and a nice alternative for patients with a fear of needles, at present, it is only available for two allergens: ragweed and grass.
Why You Need to Treat Serious Allergies
Allergies are often laughed off as being ‘part of life’. However, if you suffer from serious allergies and face difficult symptoms, it’s important not to simply shrug off your allergies because they impact your overall health.
Neglecting your allergy symptoms may lead to even more painful problems in the near- and long-term. People with nasal allergies that go untreated are more likely to develop painful sinus and ear infections.
Because allergies affect your whole body, you might also find they impact your sleep. Congestion and sleep apnea prevent your brain from getting the oxygen it needs while you sleep. Additionally, the fatigue associated with severe allergies can prevent you from feeling your best – or even good – during the day, leaving you exhausted at every turn and impacting your personal and professional life.
Serious food allergies are particularly important to treat. Food, insect, and medicinal allergies can trigger anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. Without knowing whether you have allergies and what you’re allergic to, it’s hard to avoid the things that could ultimately send you into crisis.
Over-the-Counter Allergy Relief Remedies
Do you have bothersome allergy symptoms but don’t find them severe enough to visit the doctor or order a prescription every time you’re feeling low?
Over-the-counter allergy treatments may be an option for you. These medications are available without a prescription and can be found in the health and wellness section of many retailers. What is more, these treatments are often the same formula found in prescription drugs with the only difference being a lower dosage.
If you’re suffering from a stuffy nose or sneezing, look for hay fever remedies that include antihistamines. Over-the-counter antihistamines can start working in an hour, but if your allergies are on the severe side, you may not find complete relief for several days.
Can I Use Over-the-Counter Treatments Full Time?
In most cases, the medicine bought over the counter is suitable for use as long as you have symptoms. You should always take care to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
The one common exception to this rule is nasal decongestant spray. It’s not recommended to use it for more than 72 hours, or you might find it actually makes your symptoms worse. Check with your doctor to learn more about how a specific spray works and whether a prescription spray might be a suitable alternative.
Caring for Your Allergies
If you suffer from more than an occasional runny nose, you’ve likely wondered how to get rid of allergies. Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of them. Your best bet is to treat them specifically and avoid contact with them when possible.
Fortunately, there are many ways to pinpoint the exact cause of your suffering so that you can do your best to avoid them and then treat the symptoms when they do arise.
Do you suffer from allergies? Do you use prescription, over-the-counter, or natural cures for your allergies? Share your stories in the comments below.