How to Get Rid of Allergies
As allergy season rolls around each year, many of the 50 million people battling allergies find themselves wondering, “can allergies be cured for good?”
As the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., allergies can significantly impact quality of life. Many of us know firsthand the congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and itchiness that accompanies the seasonal shifting of allergies.
Allergies typically belong to one of seven categories, and each results in a variety of symptoms that can range from mild to severe based on the person. At their most severe, allergic reactions result in anaphylaxis, where the body goes into shock and can result in death.
The main types of allergy and their symptoms include:
- Drug allergies – penicillin, sulfonamide antibiotics, cephalosporins
Causes hives, fever, and rashes.
- Food allergies – milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish
Causes hives, digestive issues, swollen airways, and difficulty breathing.
- Pet allergies – pet dander, dust mites
Causes difficulty breathing, wheezing, runny nose, and sneezing.
- Insect allergies – bees, wasps, mosquitos
Causes itchiness, hives, swelling, pain, and redness.
- Seasonal allergies – pollen
Causes sneezing, runny or stuffed nose, red and watery eyes, and itchiness.
- Mold allergies
Causes difficulty breathing, cough, itchy and watery eyes, and hives.
- Latex allergies
Causes runny nose, itchy throat and skin, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and chest tightness.
How long do allergic reactions last?
The length of time someone will find themselves struggling with the after-effects of an allergic reaction depends on a few variables.
If no longer exposed to the allergen, most people can expect symptoms to occur within a few hours and last for at most ten days, usually less.
With anaphylaxis, symptoms quickly peak within the first 3-30 minutes, with a secondary allergic response potentially occurring for up to eight hours later. While rare, some individuals may experience a protracted anaphylactic reaction with symptoms lasting up to seven days.
But what happens if you can’t get away from a particular allergen, like the inescapable pollen that picks up every spring? In these cases, symptoms can last anywhere from weeks to months.
What are Allergies exactly?
Long story short, allergies are genetic responses to non-harmful substances that our bodies inaccurately perceive as threats and dispatch an immune response to, so we stay healthy. The exact cause of allergies is still a mystery, although research suggests many allergies such as allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) are hereditary or begin in early childhood.
Hay Fever or Allergic Rhinitis
Each year, 40-60 million Americans find themselves struggling with the unrelenting symptoms of hay fever. Also called allergic rhinitis, hay fever reflects a group of symptoms that impact the nose and comes in two forms: seasonal and perennial.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis is triggered by pollen and mold spores that can increase during early fall, spring, and summer due to blooming flowers, grass, trees, and weeds.
Perennial allergic rhinitis has no symptoms, with allergic reactions prompted by indoor allergens like pet dander and hair, dust mites, cockroaches, and mold.
Of all allergies, allergic rhinitis often provides the most frustrating experience for allergy sufferers, triggering symptoms that last weeks, months, or even exist year-round. Ultimately, the unyielding nature of this allergy contributes to chronic congestion or runny noses, itchy eyes, mouths, and skin, sneezing, reduced oxygen intake, poor quality of sleep, fatigue, and fatigue.
Can You Cure Allergies?
Unfortunately, the answer right now is no. Allergies may go away on their own over time, but there are no current medical treatments or procedures that kick allergies to the curb for good.
However, if you struggle with allergic reactions to pollen, dust mites, or bee venom – immunotherapy may help reduce your allergy symptoms.
Immunotherapy involves administering progressively increasing doses of a substance – in this case, the allergen – to the allergic individual. Typically delivered over 12 months, the person’s body slowly acclimates to the allergen, reducing allergic reactions in the future. Immunotherapy mainly targets allergic rhinitis, although a new immunotherapy has recently been FDA-approved to reduce the severity of peanut allergies in children.
Types of Immunotherapy
Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT). Also known as allergy shots, subcutaneous immunotherapy slowly increases exposure and resistance to allergy symptoms caused by molds, pet dander, dust mites, pollen, and bee stings.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT). This type of immunotherapy comes as drops or tablets that the individual dissolves under their tongue. It’s widely available and helps manage allergy symptoms from grass pollen, dust mites, and ragweed.
Oral Immunotherapy (OIT). There’s only one drug currently available as an OIT, and it’s also the only allergy immunotherapy that helps manage allergic reactions to a type of food. Newly approved by the FDA in 2020, Palforzia helps reduce the severity of peanut allergies in children. It comes as a powder for people to mix with semisolid food at gradually increasing doses.
Treatments to Reduce Allergy Symptoms
If you’re looking for allergy relief, your first step should be talking to your doctor. An allergist or doctor will perform a skin or blood test to determine what you’re allergic to so you can avoid exposure in the future.
The first approach to reducing allergy symptoms that you’ll likely hear from your physician will be avoidance. Reducing contact with your allergen as much as possible is the best way to side-step pesky symptoms and stay healthy.
But when avoidance isn’t an option, there are a number of alternative pathways you can take to reduce your allergy symptoms, including exposure control, medications, and natural remedies.
Antihistamines help reduce allergy symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine, a core component of the inflammation and immune responses that are triggered by allergens. If taken before exposure, antihistamines may actually prevent symptoms. Popular oral antihistamines include: cetirizine, (Zyrtec) loratadine (Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra).
Decongestants are medications that target stuffy noses by reducing inflammation in the nose and opening up airways to ease congestion. Popular decongestants include: pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), phenylephrine (Sudafed PE), and oxymetazoline nasal (Vicks Sinex).
Also called steroid nasal sprays, these medications reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and come as a nose spray. Popular nasal corticosteroids include: triamcinolone nasal (Nasacort Allergy 24HR), budesonide nasal (Rhinocort Allergy), and fluticasone nasal (Flonase).
Mast Cell Stabilizers
When the body detects an allergen, it activates an immune response that releases inflammation-causing chemicals like histamine. Mast Cell Stabilizers, like cromolyn sodium, limit the release of these chemicals and reduce allergy symptoms.
Topical and Oral Corticosteroids
Both forms of corticosteroids help to reduce inflammation. Topical corticosteroids (hydrocortisone) help relieve inflammation and irritation of the skin. Oral corticosteroids (prednisone) must be prescribed by a physician and help alleviate inflammation and severe allergic reactions.
Epinephrine, more commonly recognized as adrenaline, treats anaphylaxis by contracting blood vessels to maintain blood circulation and relaxing airways to improve oxygen flow.
Get Serious About Cleaning.
Every time you leave the house, you pick up traces of where you go throughout the day. If you have seasonal allergies, changing clothes when you get home and taking a shower can help reduce irritants and allergens you may have brought home. Additionally, regularly cleaning and dusting your home helps reduce allergens for further allergy relief.
Boost your Indoor Air Quality with a HEPA filter
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters reduce airborne irritants by blocking common allergens, including pet dander, dust, and pollen. A panel filter or flat can help do the same for your furnace. To keep your air clean on high pollen count days, it’s also a good idea to shut windows and stick to your HEPA-filtered air conditioning instead.
Wear a Mask
Wearing a N95 mask on high pollen-count days blocks 95% of small particles, including pollen, dust, and other potential allergens.
Invest in a Dehumidifier
Mold and dust mites thrive in damp, humid environments. Dehumidifiers help remove moisture from the air, making your home inhospitable to specific allergens.
Saline Wash Nasal Rinse
A saltwater rinse through your nasal passage can provide much-needed relief by flushing out your sinuses. You can find pre-made saline solutions like Neilmed Sinus Rinse at most pharmacies or can make your own solution at home.
Drink More Liquids
Staying hydrated helps thin out mucus and decrease congestion, so make sure you’re drinking enough water. In addition, hot liquids like soup or tea add the benefit of congestion-relieving steam.
Taking a hot shower, visiting a sauna, or creating a tent with a towel over your head as you hold your face over a bowl of hot water can all help provide sinus relief, clearing congestion by thinning out mucus.
Natural Antihistamines: Quercetin, Bromelain, Butterbur
Although research is ongoing, numerous studies have shown several natural antihistamines may be effective in reducing allergy symptoms.
Bromelain – a core chemical in pineapples and papayas – is well known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and may help reduce allergy symptoms.
A small study from 2002 found butterbur was as effective at relieving itchy eyes as the antihistamine cetirizine. Additional studies have found butterbur helped relieve migraines and allergic rhinitis.
A 2005 study released in The Journal of Medicinal Foods found that when administered at 2,000mg/day, Spirulina (a blue-green algae) provided significant relief for patients with allergic rhinitis.
Probiotics are well known for their immune-boosting properties that help manage healthy inflammation responses and gut health. Aside from the anecdotal, a systematic review of 23 studies found that probiotics provided substantial relief to people with allergic rhinitis.
Analyzing the results of 2,365 patients across 13 studies, a systematic review found acupuncture significantly reduced nasal symptoms compared to control groups.
Essential Oils: Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Frankincense
Aside from providing stress relief, certain essential oils may help relieve allergy symptoms. While more research is necessary to deepen our understanding, preliminary studies suggest some essential oils help ease allergy symptoms.
Eucalyptus oil has demonstrated antimicrobial, pain-relieving, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties that have made it helpful for allergy symptoms. Frankincense has similarly shown anti-inflammatory effects that could help with allergy symptoms. Additionally, a study from 1998 found peppermint oil had potent anti-inflammatory effects as well.
At the end of the day, while it isn’t yet possible to cure allergies for good, there are more than a few alternatives you can choose between to find relief from persistent allergy symptoms. Different strategies might be more effective depending on the person, so explore your options and use what works best for you.
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