Allergy Sufferers Have Access to a Variety of Treatments
Most allergies are an inherited condition that is passed down from parents to children, although a child may not suffer from the same allergies as their parents. Over 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from one or more allergies such as indoor/outdoor, food, drug, insect, animal dander, and latex allergies. For some people, allergy symptoms can get worse due to the pollination of plants such as grass, weeds and bushes during certain times of the year. There are many allergy treatments, but first, it is important to know what the allergy symptoms are so that the right treatments can be used.
Allergy vs. Cold Symptoms
People often confuse allergy symptoms with cold symptoms, which may prompt them to seek the wrong treatment. They both have different causes that trigger the immune system to respond and attack the source of the problem. Allergies are caused by harmless pollen that the body mistakes for germs, which compels the immune system to fight off, and colds are caused by a virus that the body correctly recognizes as dangerous and goes on the attack. Allergy symptoms may include:
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Runny and stuffy nose
- Sore or scratchy throat
These symptoms are similar to the symptoms of a cold, but the difference is that allergy symptoms last a lot longer, they can occur any time of the year, and the symptoms can develop immediately after exposure. Once the allergy symptoms are recognized, then proper treatments can be sought.
There are many over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications on the market that come in the form of pills, liquids, nasal sprays, injections and skin creams. Antihistamines are a common type of medication that is available over-the-counter and by prescription. When pollen enters the body, the immune system releases a chemical called histamine which causes the allergy symptoms. Antihistamines come in the form of pills, nasal sprays, and eye drops, and these medications help to block the release of histamine. Some antihistamines are known to cause fatigue and drowsiness, so they should be taken with caution.
Allergy shots may be necessary if other medications and preventative measures are not enough to prevent or alleviate allergy symptoms. Immunotherapy helps the body adjust to allergens so that the symptoms are not as severe and less frequent. People who suffer from pollen, bee stings, pet dander, mold, and dust mite allergies more than three months out of the year are usually candidates for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy does not cure allergies, and it does not work for latex, food or drug allergies.
A severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis can be caused by bee stings, peanuts, shellfish, latex, and penicillin. The symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives and swelling of the mouth and tongue, but a person can go into anaphylactic shock when the airways begin to tighten and the blood pressure drops. When someone has the first signs of anaphylaxis, it is important that they self-administer an EpiPen, which contains epinephrine that helps to raise blood pressure and open up the airways. Once this is done, they should go see a doctor immediately for further treatment.
Allergens affect people in different ways, so it is important for an allergy sufferer to work with their doctor to find the most effective treatment to avoid further problems. Allergy medications have side effects, and they may be ineffective or harmful if combined with other medications. An allergy sufferer should keep track of their symptoms and communicate with their doctor to let them know what works and doesn’t work.