Asthma and Allergy: Treating Your Allergies

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An allergy is an abnormal response to an otherwise harmless substance – called an allergen. Most allergies are mild and can be either left untreated or controlled with over-the-counter medications, though some allergies can cause serious side effects and require prescription drugs or epinephrine injections to be carried at all times.

Allergy Testing

Testing for allergies is commonly done by blood or skin tests to identify what substances, or allergens, cause allergic reactions in patients.  Because of their reliability, speed and cost, skin tests are far more common than blood tests but either type of testing may be used. 

  • Skin prick test: a small drop of a solution containing a possible allergen is placed on the skin.  A series of pricks allows the solution to enter the skin, and the area is monitored for a reaction.  A positive reaction (reddening, raised, or itchy skin) typically means you are allergic to that allergen. 
  • Intradermal test: the intradermal test involves injecting a small amount of the allergen solution under the skin.  This test is typically done when a person is suspected of being allergic to a specific allergen, but did not test positively for that allergen during a skin prick test. 
  • Skin patch test: this test involves applying 3 panels that contain different substances or mixes which are well known causes of contact dermatitis. The panels stay on your back for 1-3 days. This test is mainly used for the detection of contact dermatitis, a skin allergy that results in inflammation of the skin when it contacts certain substances.  

Allergy Medication

There is no cure for allergies, but in most cases medications can help lessen or even entirely relieve your allergy symptoms.  Antihistamines, decongestants, combination medications and corticosteroids are some of the available options, but over-the-counter and prescription, available to treat your allergies. 

  • Antihistamines block histamine from binding to receptors.  This binding is what typically causes swelling, itching, watery eyes and runny nose.  While antihistamines alleviate most of these annoying symptoms by blocking histamine from binding, some may cause drowsiness.  
  • Decongestants are often taken alongside antihistamines in the treatment of allergies.  Decongestants work to relieve congestion by shrinking swollen nasal tissues and blood vessels.
  • Combination drugs combine the effects of antihistamines and decongestants into one pill.  Aside from combining antihistamines and decongestants, some of these combination drugs also prevent mast cells from releasing other chemicals that cause allergic reactions.
  • Steroids seek to reduce inflammation, sneezing and itchy or runny nose.  Steroids, or corticosteroids, are available in nearly all forms of treatment—pills, creams, eye drops, nasal sprays, and liquids. Steroids are highly effective against allergens and allergy symptoms.
  • Bronchodilators are only available by prescription.  Bronchodilators are inhaled drugs that quickly relieve asthma symptoms during an attack. Long-acting bronchodilators that last long enough to work overnight are also available.  

Home remedies for Allergies

While most allergies are to pollen, ragweed, and other outdoor airborne allergens, we spend 90% of our time indoors.  That means that eliminating allergens from our homes and offices is crucial to staying allergy-free.  Here are some easy tips that can help you keep your home an allergy-free zone:

  • Stay clean and clutter-free. Minimizing clutter and placing your knickknacks in drawers or bins will eliminate a lot of the dust and allergen magnets.  Items like books and stuffed animals attract and hold many of these irritants. Cleaning your home regularly will help eliminate dust and mold from accumulating. Clean cabinets, floors and counter tops with a slightly damp cloth.  In humid areas, try using some bleach on hard surfaces to kill mold and mildew.   
  • Wash your sheets in hot water. Washing your sheets in water that is at least 130* F will eliminate all dust mites and their waste. 
  • Buy throw rugs. Carpeting is the home's biggest collector of dust, dander and mold.  Eliminating the carpet will not only eliminate the allergen sanctuary, but the hard floors are also hostile to dust mites and mold.  
  • Buy a dehumidifier. dust mites need humid environments to live. The drier you make your air, the less of a problem with dust mites you will have.,  Remember to empty the water frequently as to prevent mold from growing.  
  • Wear a mask when around allergens. When you are going to be vacuuming the house or digging around the in the storage room, wear a mask to prevent you from breathing in all the dust and mold that will be stirred up. 

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots do not cure your allergies, but this form of “immunotherapy” can gradually improve your ability to handle allergens, possibly alleviating your allergies all together. It usually takes about 20-25 separate visits as the dose is being gradually increased to reach your "top" or "maintenance dose". During the first four to six months of treatment, the injections are given at a frequency of 3-14 days, usually weekly. After the maintenance dose has been reached, the injections are usually given every 2-4 weeks.

To see a schedule of of the locations and times you can receive allergy shots, visit the Our-Services page.