We are in the full swing of the spring allergy season and knowing the different types of therapies for nasal and eye allergies can help alleviate uncomfortable and problematic symptoms for allergy sufferers. People with allergies can live healthy and active lives without overwhelming problems with sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. Knowing what you may be allergic to by making an appointment and speaking with your allergist in addition to simple skin testing can be quite beneficial to help take control of your allergies. There are three different strategies to treat allergies: avoidance measures and environmental controls, medications, and allergen immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots).
Avoidance measures and environmental controls are the first step to help allergy symptoms. For pollens from trees, grasses and weeds there are some simple measures that can be performed such as:
- Keeping your car windows closed and your windows and doors closed at home
- Avoiding long periods of time outside during high pollen counts particularly in the morning
- Wear a mask if you are outside working in the yard to help filter pollen
- Using the air conditioner to filter the air in your home
- Showering before bed or after long periods of time outside to wash the pollen off
There are several effective medications that can be used to help block the symptoms of allergies. Antihistamines are safe, work quickly and can be quite effective. Some antihistamines require a prescription, but there are many non-drowsy antihistamines that are available over the counter and include: loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra). Other over the counter medications are decongestants that come in both oral and nasal spray form, but these are better used only occasionally due to possible side effects such as fast heart rate, high blood pressure, jitteriness and insomnia with the oral formulations and rebound nasal congestion with the nasal spray formulations. Prescription forms of anti-inflammatory and antihistamine nasal sprays are also available and are very effective and safer to use for longer periods of time.
Sometimes avoidance measures and medications are not enough to control one’s allergy symptoms, so another option is allergen immunotherapy (aka allergy shots). An allergy injection is not a medicine but works more like a vaccine. For example, if someone is allergic to grass and is on allergen immunotherapy then they would be receiving the actual extracted grass pollen in an injection form of the same grass pollen that they had been breathing in the outside air.
Allergen immunotherapy works by making the body’s immune system more tolerant to the allergens that are causing allergy symptoms, and this form of treatment can be very effective. There are 2 separate phases of allergy immunotherapy, build-up phase and maintenance phase. The build-up phase includes weekly or twice weekly injections until the final dose is received. Once the final dose is reached then this is now called the maintenance phase. After the maintenance phase has been reached, the frequency will begin to decrease to a monthly injection. Allergy shots at this maintenance phase are continued for 3-5 years after which time there is persistence of improvement even after discontinuing shots.
You do not have to suffer from allergies, so don’t miss out on how allergy skin testing and possibly allergen immunotherapy can help you. If you have bothersome and problematic allergy symptoms, give us a call here at Atlanta ENT, Sinus & Allergy Associates for a complete allergy evaluation from top-notched board-certified allergists.