What are the treatments for an allergy?
Baffled by all the over-the-counter products available to treat indoor allergies or outdoor allergies (also called allergic rhinitis or seasonal rhinitis? Depending on your symptoms and personal preferences, allergy relief products can take the form of saline solutions, antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays. The are all good options to relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies (hay fever) and perennial allergies.
Here is some information to help you choose the right product for your needs.
In which case can an allergy be treated?
If you suffer from allergies, it is important to minimize your exposure to the allergen that triggers your symptoms. An allergy test with an allergist will identify which allergens you react to. Then you can better target ways to avoid them and to anticipate exposure.
Immunotherapy (desensitization or hyposensitization) conducted by an allergist is a solution that can be considered for people with serious symptoms, that can’t necessarily get relief from over-the-counter products. It consists in injecting a small quantity of allergens under the skin or taking a sublingual tablet. Doing this would help your body get acclimated to the allergen so that no reaction would manifest after repeated injection and exposure.
This method is mostly used for airborne allergens such as pollen, because avoiding airborne allergens is more difficult than avoiding contact or food allergens.
|Warning! The products mentioned in this article are not designed to treat serious allergies like food allergies. The information below does not replace actual advice made by an allergist or a healthcare professional.|
Choosing the right product to relieve your allergy symptoms
|Saline Solutions||How they work
They flush out your nasal passages and sinuses, to reduce quantities of symptom-causing allergens and triggers, for example, after an outdoor activity during pollen allergy season. They help relieve nasal congestion.
Available in various forms, including drops, sprays, and nasal irrigation products, according to personal preference.
Nasal irrigation products, which send saltwater from one nostril to the other through the sinuses, are considered more effective than sprays for treating nasal congestion. Nasal irrigation products are not as complicated to use as they may sound. Your pharmacist can explain how to use them.
|Antihistamines||How they work
Antihistamines work by blocking histamine, one of the substances released by the body that cause typical allergy symptoms. They are sometimes used to relieve allergies to pet, if taken before exposure, making them a great choice for occasional allergies.
Antihistamines are available in tablets, syrups and eyedrops. Your pharmacist can pick the best one for you.
There are two (2) generations of antihistamines:
Both first and second-generation products provide similar efficacy. Each antihistamine has different properties to combat specific symptoms.
|Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays||How they work
They act in different ways, notably by reducing inflammation, sneezing and relieving congestion. While they start to take effect within a few hours, it can take several days before they become fully effective.
Make sure you carefully follow the instructions for using sprays, so you maximize their efficacy while minimizing the risk of side effects. Your pharmacist can show you how.
In Canada, certain corticosteroid nasal sprays are sold over or behind the counter, while others require a prescription. In some provinces, pharmacists can prescribe these products in specific circumstances. Ask your pharmacy staff.
|Decongestants||How they work
Decongestant nasal sprays provide temporary relief of nasal congestion.
Decongestants are also available in tablet form, most often in all-in-one allergy products and in certain “cold and sinus”–type products. Oral formulas are not recommended for long-time use, as they can cause some side effects over time.
It is important not to use it more often or for longer than recommended, to avoid increasing the risk of side effects such as rebound congestion (congestion caused by the overuse of the decongestant nasal spray).
If you have high blood pressure, decongestants are not your best option as they may increase your blood pressure. Use saline formulas instead.
Choosing the right product
Here are a few tips to help you choose the right product for your needs:
- It’s a good idea to keep saline solution handy at home. It can be useful for all kinds of things, including allergic rhinitis, colds, sinusitis, cleaning wounds, and more.
- For occasional allergy symptoms, an antihistamine in tablet form is a good choice as it is fast-acting. Where possible, take it before you are exposed to the allergen, for example, before you leave home to visit a friend who has a cat.
- Before taking an all-in-one allergy product, check the list of active ingredients to make sure you aren’t already getting the same ingredients in another product. If you are using a decongestant spray, avoid taking any all-in-one allergy products that also contain a decongestant (or stop using the spray).
- Do not use “cold and sinus” all-in-one products to treat allergies. They may contain ingredients that are ineffective against allergy symptoms. While some of the symptoms are similar, their cause is different, as are the medications used to relieve them.
- If you have asthma, stick to your asthma treatment and treat allergy symptoms as soon as they appear. Allergies, when compounded by poorly controlled asthma, can worsen asthma symptoms.
If you have a chronic disease, consult your pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter allergy medication. Some products may not be right for your condition. Don’t wait to treat your allergies, as they can seriously hamper your daily activities and your sleep. If you need help choosing the right product for your needs, ask your pharmacist.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.