Allergies are a common cause of illness and can occur at any stage in someone’s life. The AAFA states that allergies affect 50 million Americans. Allergic disorders are the fifth leading chronic disease in the U.S. and the third leading chronic disease among children under 18 years of age.
Allergies can severely impact your quality of life. Luckily, there are options to help manage symptoms and continue doing the things you enjoy. The goal is to find the treatment that best suits your allergies, your lifestyle, and your wallet.
Types of Allergies and Their Treatments
You might be surprised to learn how many different types of allergies there are. Below is the list of allergies and the best treatment options:
Food allergy is most common in babies and children, but they can appear at any age. You can even develop an allergy to foods you have eaten for years with no problems. Common foods that can trigger allergies include nuts, milk, eggs, and shellfish. Some allergies in children (such as milk and eggs) tend to be outgrown with age, while others (such as nuts and shellfish) tend to persist into adulthood.
Treatment: The mainstay of food allergy management is to avoid the trigger food. For highly allergic people, even small amounts of the allergen can trigger a reaction. Food avoidance includes reading ingredients to avoid trace amounts of allergen. An epinephrine auto-injector will be prescribed to treat a reaction in the event of accidental exposure. Options for epicutaneous and oral desensitization are available and can be explored for patients and families interested in oral immunotherapy.
Skin allergy is often a reaction to an allergen or irritant and can be caused by a variety of factors. These include immune system disorders, medications, and infections. When an allergen is responsible for triggering an immune response, then it is an allergic skin condition. Some of the most common causes of skin allergies are nickel (a metal widely used in jewelry, cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and lotions), bug sprays and certain sunscreens, medications like anti-itch creams and antibiotics, fragrances, cleaning products, plants like poison ivy, latex, and insects.
Treatment: History and testing help identify the causative agent so that it can be avoided. It might sound obvious, but it’s worth a reminder. You can’t use or touch what triggers your allergy. To help soothe itchy skin, apply a cold, wet cloth or apply cooling agents such as menthol or calamine. Staying out of the sun also helps reduce inflammation. Prescription anti-inflammatory cream helps resolve the immune reaction and moisturizing your skin aids in healing. Remember to choose a moisturizer free of additives, fragrances, and perfumes.
A drug allergy is an abnormal reaction of your immune system to a medication. Numerous medications such as over-the-counter medicines, herbal medicines or prescription medications can cause a drug allergy. A drug allergy is not the same as side effects or an overdose. It is however very serious and can sometimes even result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that adversely affects the functioning of the body.
Treatment: It is essential to identify the trigger medication. In most cases, stopping the medicine is enough. Sometimes, complications may require treatment such as steroids or antihistamine tablets. Your doctor will probably try to replace the drug with a different one that you’re not allergic to. It is equally important to identify alternative medications, and testing may identify medications that you are able to tolerate.
Pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal’s skin cells, dander, saliva or urine. In many cases, symptoms of a dog allergy are mild, and a person may still be able to live with their pet if they can manage their symptoms. Any animal with fur can be a source of pet allergy, but allergies are most commonly associated with cats and dogs.
Treatment: The best treatment is to avoid contact with cats or dogs or the areas where they live. Keep pets out of your home, or out of your bedroom. If possible, try to avoid visiting homes with pets that you are allergic to. In addition to avoiding pet allergens, you may need medications to control symptoms like antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, or leukotriene modifiers. If you prefer to avoid medications and keep your pets, allergy immunotherapy can help desensitize your body to these allergic triggers.
Mold can be found in many places like musty attics or basements, and outdoors in wooded areas or shady backyards. Disturbing a mold source can disperse mold spores into the air, triggering an allergic response in some people. The symptoms of mold allergy are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies, such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion, and dry, scaling skin.
Treatment: Symptoms can be alleviated by decreasing exposure to specific allergens. For mold allergy, the local environment should be kept dry, and dense vegetation around the house should be eliminated. Antihistamines and decongestants can help relieve the symptoms. Allergy immunotherapy can help reduce sensitivity and minimize symptoms.
Pollen is one of the most common triggers of seasonal allergies. Grass pollens, weeds or trees can trigger symptoms of allergic rhinitis and asthma. Pollen season can last for several months and exposure is difficult to avoid. However, there are several ways to prevent or reduce symptoms. Experts usually refer to it as “seasonal allergic rhinitis”.
Treatment: One key tip is to get ahead of the pollen season. For example, if your symptoms are typically at their worst in mid-April, start taking your medications at the end of March. Likewise, if the weather calls for a run of warm weather toward the end of winter, it might be smart to begin taking your medication at that time as well. Ask your allergist about medications and allergy immunotherapy that can be taken in advance of pollen season.
Home Remedies for Allergies
- Irrigate the nose with saline solution. This may help soothe upper respiratory allergies by removing irritants that become lodged in the nose and cause inflammation.
- Wash your hair and change clothes to remove pollen after you come inside.
- If you suspect that air pollution triggers your attacks, spend as little time outdoors as possible on smoggy days. Wear a mask when you go outside.
- Drink hot tea to provide relief for clogged-up noses and irritated mucous membranes.
- Breathing steam refreshes and soothes irritated sinuses, and it temporarily helps reduce mucus in the nasal passages.
- Bathe your pet frequently.
- Avoid carpets and vacuum floors frequently.
- Dehumidify your home and use an air conditioner. Dust mites love a humid environment, which allows them to reproduce more rapidly.
If you think you already know which allergen causes the reaction, take steps to avoid exposing yourself to it in the future. If you’re unsure about the root cause of the allergic reaction, consult Dr. Amy Schiffman, an allergist in Boca Raton, FL, she can discuss the possible cause of the reaction and provide the best treatment to that particular allergy.