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Allergy Treatment Options

See your options for treating or avoiding allergies.
See your options for treating or avoiding allergies.
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Allergy experts agree there are three key ways to treat nasal allergies:

  • avoiding what triggers allergy symptoms
  • taking medication to prevent or relieve the allergy symptoms
  • taking allergy shots (immunotherapy) to reduce your sensitivity to triggers

When choosing an allergy treatment, ask your doctor these questions:

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  • What are my chances of getting better?
  • What are the risks and side effects of this allergy treatment?
  • What will this allergy treatment cost?

Avoiding Allergens

Most experts agree that avoiding or reducing your exposure to allergens is the best way to treat nasal allergies and eliminate allergy symptoms such as sneezing and a runny or stuffy nose. If you can avoid allergy symptoms entirely by not being around allergens, then you won't need allergy medications. And that means you avoid the side effects of allergy medications.

Sometimes it isn't possible to avoid allergens. When that's the case, you do have other options for treating your allergies. One is to take allergy medications.

Allergy Medications

Allergy medications won't cure your nasal allergies. Nor will they completely stop an allergic reaction. They will, however, relieve and sometimes prevent allergy symptoms. Your doctor can help by prescribing allergy medications and/or recommending over-the-counter allergy medications to help control your allergy symptoms. For most people with nasal allergies, the combination of avoiding allergens and taking allergy medication is enough to control allergy symptoms.

Allergy Shots

The next option is immunotherapy. This involves a series of allergy shots that make you less sensitive to allergens, the substances that cause allergic reactions. Sometimes you can't avoid allergens. For instance, you may be allergic to a much-beloved pet. And sometimes you don't want to constantly take allergy medications. In these cases, allergy shots may be right for you. Keep in mind, allergy shots require many trips to the doctor's office and involve multiple shots or injections over several years. There is also some small risk of a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. Also, immunotherapy treatment doesn't work for everyone.

For more information about treatment results and other health considerations, see the next page.

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The goal in treating nasal allergies is to avoid the misery and discomfort of allergy symptoms and any disruption they cause in your normal routine. You also want to avoid side effects of medication, such as drowsiness. Talk with your doctor about what you hope to accomplish with allergy treatment. Also, talk about what you can reasonably expect from allergy treatment. Once you work with your doctor to set goals, you can track your allergy symptoms and your reactions to allergy medications. You'll know your allergy treatment is working when you see that you're meeting your goals.

Complications of Untreated Allergies

Nasal allergies aren't something you should ignore. Left untreated, allergies can lead to sinus, throat, ear, and stomach problems. Some of the more serious complications of untreated allergies include:

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  • sinus infections
  • nasal polyps
  • ear infections
  • asthma attacks
  • emotional and social problems

Successfully Managing Your Allergies

You now have some new skills and knowledge to manage your allergies. Remember that signs of successfully managing your nasal allergies include fewer allergies symptoms and a more active lifestyle. Doing what you can to avoid those things that trigger your allergy symptoms, taking the allergy medications you and your healthcare team have chosen, and keeping track of your progress are all steps that will help you achieve those goals.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Written by Karen Serrano, MD, Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University Board certified in Allergy and Immunology Last updated June 2008

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