||When avoidance measures don't control symptoms, medication may help. Antihistamines and decongestants are the most commonly used medications for allergic rhinitis. Newer medications, such as cromolyn, inhibit the release of chemicals that cause allergic reactions. Nasal corticosteroid sprays reduce inflammation from the allergic trigger. Medications help to alleviate nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and itching and come in many forms -- tablets, nasal sprays, eye drops and liquids. Some medications may cause side effects, so consult your allergist-immunologist if there's a problem.
When avoidance measures don't control symptoms, medication may be the answer. Antihistamines and decongestants are the most commonly used medications for allergic rhinitis. Newer medications, such as cromolyn, inhibit the release of chemicals that cause allergic reactions. Nasal corticosteroid sprays reduce the inflammation from the allergic trigger. Medications help to alleviate nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and itching. They are available in many forms, including tablets, nasal sprays, eye drops and liquids. Some medications may cause side effects, so it's best to consult your allergist-immunologist if there's a problem.
Allergen immunotherapy, known as "allergy shots," may be recommended for persons who don't respond well to treatment with medications, experience side-effects from medications or have allergen exposure which is unavoidable. Immunotherapy does not cure allergies but can be very effective in controlling allergic symptoms. Allergy injections are usually given at variable intervals over a period of three to five years.
An immunotherapy treatment program consists of injections of diluted allergy extract, administered frequently in increasing doses until a maintenance dose is reached. Then, The injection schedule is changed so that the same dose is given with longer intervals between injections. Immunotherapy helps the body build resistance to the effects of the allergen, reduces the intensity of symptoms caused by allergen exposure, and sometimes can actually make skin test reactions disappear. As resistance develops, symptoms should improve, but the improvement form immunotherapy will take several months to occur. Immunotherapy does not help the symptoms produced by non-allergic rhinitis.
There are many ways of treating allergens, and each person's treatment must be individualized based on the frequency, severity and duration of symptoms and on the degree of allergic sensitivity. If you have more questions, your allergist-immunologist will be happy to answer them.
Antihistamines are the most inexpensive and commonly used treatment for rhinitis. These medications counter the effects of histamine, the irritating chemical released within your body when allergic reaction takes place. Although other chemicals are involved, histamine is primarily responsible for causing the symptoms.
Antihistamines do not cure, but help relieve nasal allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itching and discharge; eye symptoms, such as itching, burning, tearing, and clear discharge: skin conditions such as hives, eczema, itching and some rashes; and other allergic conditions as determined by your physician.
There are dozens of different antihistamines and wide variations in how patients respond to them. Some are available over the counter and others require a prescription.
Generally, antihistamines work well and produce only minor side effects. The body tends to build up resistance to some antihistamines over time. This tendency varies from individual to individual. If you find that an antihistamine loses its "strength," notify your physician who may then recommend an antihistamine of a different class or strength. Persons with nasal dryness or thick nasal mucus should avoid taking antihistamines without consulting a physician. Contact your physician for advice if an antihistamine causes drowsiness or other side effects.
Short-acting antihistamines can be taken every four to six hours, while timed-release antihistamines are taken every 24 hours. The short-acting antihistamines are often most helpful when taken 30 minutes before the anticipated allergic exposure (e.g. a picnic during ragweed season). Timed-release antihistamines are better suited to chronic (long-term) use for those who need daily medications.
Proper use of these drugs is just as important as their selection. The most effective way to use them is before symptoms develop. An early dose can eliminate the need for a larger dose later. Many times, a patient will say they "took one, and it didn't work', but if they had taken the antihistamines regularly for three to four days, and built up their blood levels, it might have been effective.
The most common side effect is sedation or drowsiness. For this reason, it is important that you do not drive a car or work with dangerous machinery the first time you take an antihistamine. The first time you take an antihistamine, take it at home, several hours before bedtime. When you are sure the medicine will not cause sedation, you can then take it any time as prescribed during the day. For those who experience drowsiness, the sedation effect usually lessens over time. Some of the newer antihistamines have side effects of drowsiness.
There have not been enough studies to determine absolute safety of antihistamines in pregnancy. Again, consult your allergist-immunologist or obstetrician if antihistamines must be taken.
While antihistamines have been taken safely by millions of people in the last 50 years, don't take them before telling your allergist-immunologist if you are allergic to or intolerant of any medicines, are pregnant or intend to become pregnant while using this medication, are breast feeding, have glaucoma or enlarged prostate or have any illness.