What is Allergy Care?
Allergy care refers to treatment involved in the management of allergies. An allergy is a reaction by your immune system to substances that do not cause a reaction in most other people. These substances are known as allergens. The most common allergens are pollen, dust mites, animal dander, mold spores, food, insect stings, and medicines. Allergies can cause various symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, teary eyes, swelling, itching, rashes, coughing, wheezing, or breathlessness. Allergies can range from minor to severe. Anaphylaxis is a serious reaction that can be life-threatening.
Prior to beginning treatment, your allergist will take a complete medical history, discuss with you about your symptoms, and identify trigger factors for your allergy symptoms. Your physician will then perform skin or blood tests to confirm the specific allergens causing your symptoms and recommend suitable allergy care methods as treatments. While most allergies cannot be cured, treatments can help alleviate your allergy symptoms. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding triggers and using air filters are crucial, too.
Some of the treatments and preventive measures involved with allergy care include:
- Antihistamines: These medications are helpful in treating sinus issues brought on by allergies. They work by blocking the action of certain chemical compounds (histamines) which cause allergy symptoms. They can calm runny nose, itching, sneezing, and hives. They are available in the form of nose sprays, liquids, pills, and melting tablets. These treat indoor and seasonal allergies.
- Nasal corticosteroids: Nasal corticosteroids are nose sprays. They reduce swelling in the nasal lining. Swelling causes an itchy, stuffy, and runny nose. They are the most effective medication for nasal allergies.
- Mast cell stabilizers: Mast cell stabilizers are anti-inflammatory drugs used to alleviate asthma and several allergic conditions. They keep your body from releasing histamine. This can help with an itchy, runny nose or itchy, watery eyes. They come in the form of nose sprays or eye drops.
- Corticosteroid ointments or creams: These are topical medications that help to relieve itchiness and prevent the spread of rashes. One should see their physician if their rashes do not go away after applying these medications for a week.
- Decongestants: These medications are helpful in alleviating stuffy nose symptoms and act by shrinking the swollen membranes in the nose. But one should be careful as using decongestant sprays more than 3 days in a row may cause the stuffiness and swelling in your nose to become worse. This can occur even after you discontinue using the medication.
- Oral corticosteroids: These are oral medications that may be prescribed to decrease swelling and put an end to acute allergic reactions. These medications can cause severe side effects. Expect your physician to carefully observe you while taking it.
- Immunotherapy (allergy shots): If your allergies are causing persistent problems, immunotherapy might be your best option. Allergy shots help reduce the body's reaction to specific allergens. They are considered the best long-term treatment method for seasonal, insect bites, and indoor allergies.
- Epinephrine: This medication comes in a pre-measured and self-injectable device. It is the most important medication given during life-threatening anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). For this medicine to work, you should get an epinephrine shot within minutes of the first sign of a serious allergic reaction. Epinephrine can treat life-threatening allergic reactions to stinging insects, food, medications, and latex.
The least invasive and safest method for preventing allergies is to avoid specific allergens that might trigger your immune responses. This includes:
- Encasing your mattress and pillows in dust mite-proof cases
- Removing carpets from your home and replacing them with easy-to-clean material such as hardwood or linoleum
- Using only washable window coverings, such as cotton or synthetic curtains
- Keeping your doors and windows closed during the pollen season and using an air conditioning system
- Avoiding outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are high
- Keeping potted plants out of the house
- Avoiding the use of a wood-burning fireplace or stove, as the smoke may cause respiratory allergies
- Washing the sink regularly and not letting dishes pile up, to avoid your sink turning into a breeding ground for mold
- Washing or replacing shower curtains and bathmats on a regular basis.
- Avoiding smoking inside your home
- Making sure to bathe pets once a week and keep them out of your bedroom and off the furniture
- Avoiding weed pulling, lawn mowing, and other gardening chores that stir up allergens
- Cleaning floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
- Keeping indoor air dry with a dehumidifier (a device that removes excess moisture from the air)
- Taking prescribed allergy medications before your symptoms start or flare up if high pollen counts are forecasted