Allergies are your immune system’s reaction to substances your body perceives as harmful, usually called allergens. When your body senses them, it produces antibodies that release chemicals into the bloodstream (histamine is the most prevalent of these chemicals), which cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction, usually focused in the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. The thing about allergies, though, is that you can’t get rid of allergies, you can only treat the allergy symptoms — because once your body establishes an allergic reaction it will react in the same way each time it encounters that allergen. Which means you’ve got weeks at a time when you’re sniffling and sneezing. Because I know the misery of allergies, I’ll do my best to help you get rid of your allergic symptoms, identify your allergens, and understand the serious implications of anaphylactic reactions.
More Allergy Topics
Serious allergies? Try Benadryl.
Chewing a Benadryl or two after being exposed to a potentially fatal allergen is a technique suggested by many emergency care physicians. Keeping one on hand wherever you go might just save your life one day.
What causes allergies?
Allergies and allergens are unique to each individual, but common allergens are pollen, dust, dust mites, mold and mildew, animal dander and hair, insect bites and stings, and certain foods, chemicals, and medicines. In some cases (like mine), certain metals and fabrics can also act as allergens. It’s helpful to know what your triggers are in order to avoid them!
Symptoms of Allergies
Common allergic reactions and symptoms include sneezing and congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes, a sore throat, and itching and swelling of the skin and membranes.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction which can include hives, trouble breathing or chest pains, severe swelling, and dizziness or loss of consciousness. If you think you are having an anaphylactic reaction you should seek medical attention immediately. Also, a head’s up: if the hospital is too far away, but you’re close to a fire station, they have epi-pens (and are trained to use them) that may save your life.
Best Ways to Rid of Your Allergies
Identifying your allergens is the first step to getting rid of allergies. Once you’ve recognized your symptoms, you need to identify the cause of your allergies. Your allergens may be obvious (sneezing around pollen-filled trees), or you may need to evaluate your environment and allergy history. Try to pinpoint when your allergies started, or when your allergies are strongest. Use a process of elimination, removing possible allergens one by one from your environment and monitoring your response. Keep a food diary to track possible food allergies. If you can’t satisfactorily identify your allergens, talk to a doctor about allergy testing, which usually involves skin prick and scratch tests to identify your allergens and get rid of your allergies.
Once you’ve identified your allergens, modify your environment to help stop your allergic reactions. Once you identify your allergens, the simplest way to get rid of your allergies is to remove the allergens from your environment. If you’re allergic to certain foods cut them out of your diet (be aware of the ingredients of restaurant meals and packaged foods). If you’re allergic to animal dander, don’t let your sister’s eight cats wave their tails in your face. Clean your house regularly. Use an allergy-free laundry detergent. Of course, it’s not always possible to remove all allergens from your environment (like those pollinating trees, or your new kitten); in those cases, your best bet for getting rid of your allergies are pharmacological, like the suggestions below.
Antihistamines are one of the most common treatments for allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are drugs that counteract the effects of the histamines (the chemical released by the body to fight allergens). Antihistamines generally relieve the sneezing and itching associated with allergies, but can have a lesser effect on other symptoms. There are different families of antihistamines, called first generation and second generation; first generation often has heavier side effects (especially drowsiness) that second. The most common forms of antihistamines are steroid-free nasal sprays and oral anithistamines containing an added decongestant and/or pain reliever. Common OTC anthihistamines are Claritin and Benadryl. Common prescription anithistamines are Zyrtec (which you can find on Amazon) and Allegra. Talk to a doctor about possible side effects and complication with other medicines you may be taking before choosing the right antihistamine to get rid of your allergies.
Allergen immunotherapy is another medical option for allergy relief. Allergen immunotherapy involves injections of allergen “vaccines”, with the goal of reaching a maintenance dose that consistently reduces your allergies by moderating your immune system’s reactions to your allergen(s). Allergen immunotherapy does carry the risk of inducing anaphylaxis, but modern standardized vaccines allow for more consistency and less risk of adverse side effects. In the United States, allergen immunotherapy has been developed for allergens including cat dander, the two predominant mite species, short ragweed and Bermuda, red top, June, rye, orchard, timothy and sweet vernal grasses. Allergen immunotherapy should be considered for patients in whom allergen avoidance and antihistamines have not been effective in getting rid of allergies.
Intranasal corticosteroids are another effective way to reduce allergy symptoms. Intranasal corticosteroids have to be prescribed by your doctor and are used specifically to treat allergic rhinitis, or the nasal symptoms of allergies. Intranasal corticosteroids come in drops, nasal sprays, or nasal inhalers and are applied directly to inside of your nose, where they work to block the inflammation and irritation of your nasal membranes. Intranasal corticosteroids do carry the risk of side effects, and because they relieve nasal symptoms only, are usually prescribed for patients who haven’t found sufficient relief through other allergy treatments. You can get OTC Flonase in 120ct from Amazon.
Natural Allergy Remedies
Allergen-free detergents and allergen-fighting detergents can reduce your allergies. For an allergen-free (no petroleum-based products, phosphates, animal by-products, or artificial fragrances and dyes) detergent, check out brands like Seventh Generation or the ALL Free Clear detergent (it also claims to remove cat dander and dust mites).
Nutritional supplements. Various vitamins, minerals, and herbs are used to strengthen the immune system and work as natural antihistamines and decongestants. Some of the most commonly used supplements are Vitamins C, B5, A, E, and B12, Omega-3 Fatty acids, and Butterbur. Before you decide to try nutritional supplements to combat your allergies alone or in conjunction with medical treatment, you should do some research and consider talking to your physician or someone in the field of holistic medicine.
Saline Nasal Spray. Some doctors recommend saline to relieve your allergies by washing out pollen and thinning mucus congestion.
More Treatments for Your Allergies
There are other, less common “novel” treatments for allergies that are still being developed and are usually given to patients not responding to more traditional allergy treatments. Some of these include cytokine therapy, which works to directly inhibit allergic inflammation caused by cell-generated cytokins, antifungal agents to combat allergic response to fungi in nasal mucous, sublingual-swallow immunotherapy, tryptase inhibitors, and other cell-based therapies.
If you think traditional methods are not getting rid of your allergies, talk to your doctor about other allergy treatments.