Management of Allergies

When the body is attacked by a foreign substance, the immune system produces antibodies to destroy it to protect you from becoming sick. Allergies are responses from your immune system that occur when a foreign body triggers antibody release, even if it is not harmful. These allergy-causing substances are called allergens.

Conservative Treatment Measures

The conservative treatment measures to treat allergies can include the following:

Avoidance of the allergen

Identifying the allergens and avoiding them is the first method of treatment. Major indoor allergens include house dust mites, domestic pets, cockroaches and mold spores. Some measures that are helpful for avoiding allergens include

  • Use allergen proof covers for mattresses and pillows.
  • Use hot water when washing your bedding.
  • Remove objects that accumulate dust, treat carpets with anti allergen products, and avoid keeping pets in the home. If pets are in the home they should be washed regularly and kept out of bedrooms.
  • Avoid grassy, open spaces when outdoors.
  • Use air conditioning and change your filters frequently instead of opening windows.

Medications

The different types of medications that can be prescribed by your doctor include:

Antihistamines: Antihistamines help prevent symptoms caused by allergies, colds and influenza by blocking histamine, one of the chemicals released in an allergic reaction. The first type of antihistamines developed caused excessive drowsiness, but there are newer antihistamines that have been developed that do not make you sleepy. Antihistamines can interact with other drugs or cause adverse side effects. Talk with your doctor about the best antihistamine for your particular situation.

Topical steroids: Topical steroid are the most effective treatment for allergies. Regular use is necessary as the onset of action is slow and maximum effect occurs after several days. Nasal steroids reduce nasal inflammation, eye symptoms and improve the sense of smell. They also can reduce the risk of asthma exacerbations. Side effects can include nasal bleeding and minor irritation.

Mast cell stabilizers: These are medications that prevent the release of histamine, one of the mediators responsible for allergic symptoms. These are usually in the form of nasal sprays to treat allergic rhinitis.

Decongestants: Decongestant nasal drops or sprays reduce nasal obstruction, but prolonged use can cause excessive nasal obstruction and loss of response to the drug.

Systemic decongestants taken by mouth also can reduce nasal obstruction. Talk to your doctor as to the best choice for your situation.

Systemic corticosteroids: For very severe symptoms, oral steroid tablets may be ordered by your physician. Regular use is associated with significant systemic side effects.

Immunotherapy: Allergen immunotherapy involves repeatedly exposing the patient to small amounts of the allergen that is causing their symptoms. This repeated exposure eventually creates a tolerance to the allergen. This reduces clinical symptoms and also the requirements for medication during subsequent natural allergen exposure. It is indicated for patients with severe allergic rhinitis who fail to respond adequately to drug therapy.

Immunotherapy offers the potential for long-term disease modification and prophylaxis. Local reactions are minimal. Systemic reactions occur in 10% of people, which include symptoms like mild asthma and itching. Rarely severe reactions like anaphylaxis and generalized body itching occur. In view of the systemic side effects, it is performed only in specialist centres.