While there is no known cure for allergies and allergic reactions, there are many ways to treat the affliction so that you can live a happy, healthy, and productive life. One of the best courses of action to take against allergies is administering medication.
There are several types of medicine on the market that can be used to eliminate or lessen the annoying and painful symptoms associated with an allergic reaction. Whether you are looking for something over-the-counter for convenience, or a stronger prescription medication from your allergist, the following medicines treat everything from runny nose and congestion, to skin rashes, to those pounding headaches:
1. Over-the Counter Aids
If you need relief in a hurry, nothing beats the over-the-counter products that you can find in almost any pharmacy or grocery store. For example, itchy, watery, and red eyes can benefit from a couple of drops of artificial tear solutions, which replace the tears you would otherwise make naturally.
On the subject of solutions, saline, or saltwater solution, breaks down mucus that is clogging your nasal passages, preventing crusting and blockages impeding your ability to breathe naturally.
In the midst of an allergy attack, your mucus membranes and the tissues inside your nose will swell. This is due to contact with an irritant. In response, your nasal passages will create mucus. The same irritation can cause your eyes to become swollen and discolored. Decongestants shrink back the inflamed tissues and blood vessels, relieving many of these awful symptoms.
These are medications that can be found in drugstores, though the stronger varieties require a prescription from your doctor. As the name suggests, they relieve the congestion that is all too often a symptom of many allergy sufferers. They come in many forms, including pills and liquids. And, some nasal sprays and eye drops fall under this category, as well.
Just remember, even the over-the-counter decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, can raise blood pressure, so take caution if you already have issues with hypertension or glaucoma. The med may also increase irritability and cause insomnia, so be careful. Also, using eye drop and nasal spray decongestants, such as phenylephrine and oxymetazoline, respectively, for too long of a period can worsen symptoms rather than help.
3. Anticholinergic Sprays for the Nose
If your nose is already running, and doing so a bit too much, perhaps you should try a nasal spray containing ipratropium bromide. You would simply spray it into each nostril and it will reduce how much your nose is running by attaching itself to the glands lining your nasal cavity and stopping them from secreting mucus. Unfortunately, this can lead to a really dried out nose and throat, so use it sparingly.
Your immune system is seriously triggered when you encounter something that you are personally allergic to. And, unfortunately, those of you with allergies will learn that your immune response will appear more exaggerated than most other people, which is quite uncomfortable and painful.
So, what is happening? The immune cells known as “mast cells” are releasing what is known as “histamine,” an organic compound that enlarges blood vessels by attaching to their receptors. This is what causes the changes in discharge, along with the itching, redness, and swelling you tend to experience. Like the name states, an antihistamine blocks this chemical from binding to the vulnerable receptors and alleviates symptoms.
These medications have been used to treat the effects of allergies for decades and are quite effective. They come in liquids and pills to take orally, as well as nasal sprays and eye drops, like naphazoline, for topical relief. Many are available over-the-counter, like loratadine, though there are several prescription varieties, such as cetirizine, fexofenadine, and levocetirizine.
Just note that a lot of the older antihistamines, such as brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine, clemastine, and diphenhydramine can cause drowsiness, so exercise caution when operating machinery or driving a vehicle.
Corticosteroids, often shortened to simply “steroids,” are medicines that significantly reduce inflammation. As such, they can also prevent the runny and itchy nose associated with seasonal allergies, as well as the sneezing and stuffiness that sufferers endure. In addition, steroids are also effective in reducing swelling and inflammation caused by other types of allergic reactions, including food allergies.
Steroids, such as prednisone, usually come in liquid or pill form, and it can take up to two weeks for the medication to be fully effective. However, in order to maintain their potency as an anti-allergen, steroids must be taken on a strict schedule. This usually means taking your drugs every day in order for them to remain effective, even if you are currently free from symptoms.
Steroids are also administered through prescription nasal sprays, like beclomethasone, ciclesonide, fluticasone furoate, and mometasone, and inhalers, for those who also suffer from asthma. Allergic conjunctivitis, or pink eye, can be treated with steroidal eye drops, like dexamethasone ophthalmic and loteprednol ophthalmic, and there are also topical steroidal creams for eczema and skin reactions.
Just be aware that while steroids are fantastic combatants of pesky allergy symptoms, long term use may lead to osteoporosis, cataracts, or even diabetes. In the short term, you may experience weight gain and high blood pressure with use.
6. Leukotriene Modifiers
These are medications that block, or modify, the effects of bodily chemicals that are made in response to contact with an allergen. Such chemicals are called “leukotrienes.” These medicines are also one of the first-line defenses in the treatment of asthma and other nasal passage issues.
At this time, such agents are only available by a prescription from your physician. As a matter of fact, the only leukotriene modifier currently approved in the United States is montelukast. It is available as pills, oral granules, or chewable tablets for convenience. There are few notable side effects, but you may feel slight stomach discomfort, nausea, or a headache after use.
7. Mast Cell Stabilizers
These are drugs that are used to prevent the release of the dreaded histamine that causes both mild and moderate inflammation. Mast cells are the cells where histamines are created and stored, so these medications are meant to diffuse and disable them. And, while mast stabilizers like cromolyn sodium, lodoxamide-tromethamine, nedocromil, and pemirolast are not as effective as steroids at keeping inflammation at bay, they have less adverse effects. That said, they may take a few weeks to steadily work.
Mast cell stabilizers are available as inhalers for nasal allergies, eye drops for allergic conjuctivitis, and oral solutions. As far as side effects, at most they may cause throat irritation or coughing, though some patients have reported headaches and skin rashes.
This is a very effective treatment that has provided a respite for many lifelong allergy sufferers. It can supply you with long term relief, which is especially helpful for those that deal with allergies for more than three months a year. This type of therapy can come in the form of allergy shots or under-the-tongue prescription tablets, like grastek, oralair, and ragwitek, that can be taken at home. Other immunotherapy pills, such as odactra, treat dust mite allergies, and palforzia treats allergies to peanuts.
The therapy gradually exposes you to an ever-increasing doses of the allergens that offend you, treating your hay fever. Working almost like a vaccine, it allows your immune system to become more tolerant.