Allergies are an exaggerated immune system response to a substance that is otherwise harmless. Identifying the trigger is necessary in order to formulate a treatment plan. This requires allergy testing. Your doctor will review your medical history, ask questions about your symptoms and administer either a skin or blood test. Once the allergen trigger is found, treatment can begin.
Types of Allergy Treatment
There are three types of allergy treatment available.
- Prevention. The least invasive treatment method for allergies is avoiding the triggers responsible for your symptoms. This is most effective for people suffering from food or pet allergies, but less likely to succeed for those allergic to pollen, molds and dust mites. Steps can be taken to reduce exposure, but it’s difficult to completely eliminate these substances from your life. Strategies include running the air conditioner during hot, dry weather; limiting your outdoor activities during peak pollen-producing times; buying allergy-proof bedding and using a dehumidifier.
- Medications. Certain medications can be effective in reducing the severity of your allergy symptoms. These include antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, nasal sprays, eye drops and mast cell inhibitors. These don’t cure allergies, but may at least make life tolerable.
- Immunotherapy. This option may be helpful for individuals who are unable to avoid allergens and do not find relief from medications. Immunotherapy, often referred to as allergy shots, involves introducing small amounts of the allergen to the body, allowing it to build up a tolerance. Small doses are gradually increased until a maintenance level is reached; treatment then continues for three to five years, until immunity is achieved. The procedure is considered safe and effective, and has been approved by the FDA. A new, alternative form of treatment called sublingual immunotherapy relies on droplets of extract instead of injections and can be self-administered at home. It has not yet been approved by the FDA, but studies show it is every bit as effective and has fewer risks of side effects.