Relieve Your Allergies
Do you suffer from seasonal or environmental allergies that prevent you from doing things you love or make you feel miserable?
Keep reading to find out the most common types of allergies and the steps that you can take to help you feel better quickly. Almost half of the people in America suffer daily from different types of allergies, such as environmental, seasonal, or food allergies, often without relief. If you are one of these many sufferers, you may feel so bad that some days you cannot tell if your allergies are acting up or if you are getting sick.
Luckily with advancements in detection and treatment, there are ways that you can diminish the effects that certain allergies have on your day-to-day life and over time, make them less of a burden. Keep reading if you are one of the millions of people that suffer from allergies and want to find out more about what causes them and how to best treat the symptoms.
Causes of Allergies
If you have allergies, it is because your immune system overreacts to certain substances, known as allergens. For many people, allergens do not cause any reaction. However, for many others, once an allergen enters the body, the immune system tries to attack it the same way that it would attack a germ or virus that enters your system. Because the immune system recognizes it as a foreign substance and reacts to the allergen similarly to the germs, bacteria, or viruses that cause sickness, the symptoms these people experience tend to be similar.
The most common reaction that the body will have to an allergen is to cause itchiness, rashes, swelling, or cold symptoms. People who are extremely sensitive to a particular allergen can have an extreme immune system response and possibly suffer from a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Most Common Allergies
Most allergy sufferers can attribute their reactions to one of the following most common allergens:
Food —mostly peanut or tree nuts, dairy products (cow’s milk), shellfish, eggs, wheat, or soy.
Animals—primarily cat and dog dander.
Pollen —is caused by plants, grass, and trees.
Mold —mold spores that enter the system from the natural environment or are caused by wet and humid indoor conditions.
Dust Mites —Dust mites can be found throughout the house as they are shed by dead skin cells and tend to rest in carpets, bedding, and furniture.
Insect Stings —mostly reactions to bee, wasp, or hornet stings.
Other allergies that are less common but still found often include perfumes (or other chemical scents), latex, and certain medications.
Over the Counter (OTC) Allergy Meds
You can often treat mild to moderate allergies using OTC medications which are readily available in any grocery store or pharmacy. There are three main types of OTC allergy medications —Antihistamines, Decongestants, and Corticosteroids.
Antihistamines block the chemical (called histamine) that your immune system releases when it recognizes an allergen. You can easily purchase many common antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl, and Allegra without a prescription.
Decongestants work primarily on hay fever symptoms (typically pollen or dust mite allergies). They reduce the symptoms of congestion in the sinuses and nasal passages. Common OTC decongestants used for allergies include Caranex-D, Claritin-D, and Allegra-D. The letter "D" comes after the name of the medication to indicate the presence of a decongestant.
Corticosteroids target the inflammation aspect caused by the immune system during an allergic reaction and work to suppress this inflammation. Some of these require a prescription, but many of the nasal sprays you can purchase OTC, including Nasonex, Flonase, and Nasacort.
Before deciding to try an OTC allergy medicine to treat any of your symptoms, make sure that you research any potential side effects or reactions with other medications that you take. See some detailed allergy medicine comparisons here.
Allergy Treatments and Treatment Centers
Sometimes over-the-counter medicines do not provide enough relief for an allergy or do not seem to target a specific allergy that you suffer. In these cases, you may need to visit a doctor or allergy treatment center to determine the specific cause of your allergy and treat it appropriately with a prescription or another therapy. They may also prescribe you an Epinephrine pen (also known as EpiPen) that you or someone else can inject immediately if you experience a life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction.
Your doctor may also recommend other measures to remove the allergen from your living space, such as using dust mite covers on your pillow, vacuuming with a vacuum with a special filter, and keeping windows closed.
Even after trying the prescriptions and other preventative measures, you may need a more targeted treatment such as immunotherapy with allergy shots or other methods if you still suffer from an allergic reaction.
Allergy shots work by assisting your body with getting used to a specific allergen or allergens. They cannot immediately cure your allergic reaction, but over a certain amount of time, they can help to lessen it. Each shot that you receive contains a small amount of the allergen that you suffer a reaction to (i.e., mold, dust mite, bee venom, peanut). At the beginning of your treatment, you must receive many of these shots over a short period of time. However, over time, the doctor will increase the amount of the allergen in the shot, and the number of times you need to receive it will decrease. Ultimately, your maintenance may consist of one shot per month for a few years. Sometimes, instead of a shot, you can receive your immunotherapy in the form of a tablet containing the allergen that you place under your tongue.
An excellent place to start if you are looking to find an allergy treatment center close to where you live is to visit the Find an Allergist page from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.
Cost of Allergy Meds and Treatments
The costs for allergy treatments and medications can sometimes run high depending on the severity of your allergy and required treatment.
OTC allergy medicines are generally inexpensive and tend to cost less than $50 for a month's supply. Sometimes, your insurance plans will reimburse you for these medicines, or you can ask your doctor to prescribe a generic prescription equivalent that may cost less or be partially covered by insurance. If a doctor prescribes an Epinephrine pen, it could cost between $300 and $700 for a package of two.
Allergy shots are a more expensive treatment. A patient without insurance that covers them can expect to pay approximately $1,500 to $4,000 a year, depending on the frequency that the shots are needed. A patient with insurance may still have to spend about $700 to $2,000 a year for their copay.