People with allergies to pollen, dust, animals, or molds have bodies that think these allergens are dangerous to the body and have built up immune defenses to attack these allergens and keep them away from vital organs of the body as if they were a dangerous virus. This is called Allergic Rhinitis.
When immune system cells inside your nose come into contact with these allergens they send off chemical messages to all your cells that they are under attack. These messages cause the lining in your nose to swell and to start producing mucus. This mucus causes runny noses. The swelling and mucus can cut off your eye drainage passage which causes the itchy watery eyes. The swelling can also cut off the passage to your ears which causes stuffy head and clogged ears. There are nerves in the nasal cavity that attach directly to the brain. The mucus and swelling can irritate these nerves, and when they are irritated you start to sneeze. Finally, the mucus draining into your throat can cause the itchy throat feeling.
There are 3 strategies to treat allergies. Avoid the allergens so your body doesn’t react. Disable the immune system so the swelling and chemical reactions don’t happen. Teach your immune system that allergens are not dangerous viruses or bacteria.
How Can I Prevent an Allergic Reaction to Pollen?
- Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. This will lessen the amount of pollen allergen you inhale and reduce your symptoms.
- Keep windows closed during pollen season and use central air conditioning with a HEPA filter attachment. This applies to your home and to any vehicle (car, bus, train, etc.).
- Start taking allergy medicine before pollen season begins. Most allergy medicines work best when taken this way. This allows the medicine to prevent your body from releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause your symptoms.
- Bathe and shampoo your hair daily before going to bed. This will remove pollen from your hair and skin and keep it off your bedding.
- Wash bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat. This will help keep pollen out of your eyes and off your
- Limit close contact with pets that spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Change and wash clothes worn during outdoor activities.
- Dry your clothes in a clothes dryer, not on an outdoor line.
Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats?
Allergies to pets with fur are common, especially among people who have other allergies or asthma. In the United States, as many as three in 10 people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.
Is There Such a Thing as a Hypoallergenic Pet?
People with dog allergies may be more sensitive to some breeds of dogs than others. Some people may be allergic to all dogs. People may think certain breeds of dogs are “hypoallergenic,” but a truly non-allergic dog or cat does not exist.
What Is the Treatment for Allergies?
Certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines may help reduce pollen allergy symptoms by disabling the immune system reactions. Antihistamines come in pill, liquid or nasal spray form. They can relieve sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes. They also reduce a runny nose and, to a lesser extent, nasal stuffiness.
- Decongestants are available as pills, liquids, nasal sprays or drops. They help shrink the lining of the nasal passages and relieve nasal stuffiness. Use decongestant nose drops and sprays only on the short-term.
- Nasal corticosteroids are a type of nasal spray. They reduce inflammation in the nose and block allergic reactions. They are the most effective medicine type for allergic rhinitis because they can reduce all symptoms, including nasal congestion. Nasal corticosteroids have few side effects.
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists block the action of important chemical messengers (other than histamine) that are involved in allergic reactions.
- Cromolyn sodium is a nasal spray that blocks the release of chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, including histamine and leukotrienes. This medicine has few side effects, but you must take it four times a day. Many people with pollen allergy do not get complete relief from medications. This means they may be candidates for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment that can help prevent or reduce the severity of allergic reactions. It can change the course of allergic disease by modifying the body’s immune response to allergens.
- Allergy Shots – Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT) has been around for more than 100 years and can provide long-lasting and permanent symptom relief. SCIT is a series of shots that have progressively larger amounts of allergen. An injection of the allergen goes into the fat under the skin. Over time, allergic symptoms generally improve. Many patients experience complete relief within one to three years of starting SCIT. Many people experience benefits for at least several years after the shots stop.
- Sublingual Immunotherapy involves placing a tablet containing the allergen under the tongue for 1 to 2 minutes and then swallowing it. In 2014, the FDA approved three types of under-the-tongue tablets to treat grass and ragweed allergies. More are in development. You take SLIT tablets daily before and during grass or ragweed season. This treatment offers people with these allergies a potential alternative to allergy shots. Discuss your allergy symptoms and your allergy treatment plan with your healthcare provider.
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