Avoiding Your Allergens

Naturally, the best way to avoid an allergic reaction to a substance is to avoid that substance. This may involve taking measures at home (such as thorough cleaning, replacing carpets with hardwood floors, and removing pets) and adjustments in your lifestyle (taking a vacation when seasonal allergies where you live are at their peak, for example).

Medication

There are many medication options to treat allergies—both by prescription and over the counter. Your doctor can help you choose a type of medication. Options include: antihistamines, which help relieve skin reactions and sneezing, itching, and runny nose; decongestants, which help reduce nasal congestion, or “stuffiness”; eye drops to temporarily relieve burning and bloodshot eyes; corticosteroid creams or ointments to relieve itchiness and control rashes; corticosteroid nasal sprays (prescription) to reduce nasal inflammation and congestion; cromolyn sodium (prescription) to prevent nasal congestion; oral corticosteroids (prescription) to reduce swelling and stop severe allergic reactions; epinephrine (injectable, prescription) for use during a life-threatening anaphylactic attack.

You should consult with your doctor about any medications—prescription and over the counter—you are taking to help control your allergies. Some prescription medications can cause serious side effects (such as oral corticosteroids) and require close monitoring by a doctor. Make sure you understand the potential side effects of all medications you are taking.

Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

Immunotherapy can be used to prevent allergy symptoms when it’s not possible to avoid your allergens and medications don’t provide adequate control. These shots work by making you less sensitive to the allergen over time. To do so, the patient is injected with increasingly higher doses of the allergen.

Resources

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

SOURCES

Allergic Diseases. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Web site. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/allergicdiseases/Pages/default.aspx.Accessed June 2010.

Allergy Overview. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Web site. Available at: http://www.aafa.org. Accessed June 2010.