Survival Guide to Allergies

Allergic disorders affect an estimated 1 in 5 adults and children. That’s 40 to 50 million people.  It’s the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, according to the Allergy Report from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

What is an allergy attack?
When people battle allergies, they typically come into contact with an allergen. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis or hay fever may include sneezing, congestion, itchy, watery nose and eyes and/or asthma symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and coughing.

If people suffer from any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, doctors will typically run tests, but it is likely the reason for the symptoms is due to allergens.

Is there a cure?
No, there isn’t a cure but there are ways to prevent allergies or treat the symptoms that come with it.  The best advice allergists can give is, “Don’t be stoic. It’s important to seek relief from your symptoms, because without treatment, allergies may worsen over time. Allergic reactions can spread deep into the lungs, putting you at an increased risk for asthma.”

What medications work the best?
There are several options to pick from: antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids and decongestants.  Antihistamines, like Clarinex, treat sore throats and nasal itching, however, they won’t help with congestion or inflammation.  Nasal sprays, like Flonase, block swelling in the nose and are effective at treating nasal congestion, however, they burn.  Decongestants can reduce the amount of fluid in the nasal passage, but can lead to drowsiness.

When to consider allergy shots?
If medications don’t work and allergies continue to attack, allergy shots could be an option.  The series of shots takes several months to complete, but is said to reduce 80-90 percent of allergy symptoms.  A doctor can help people decide if this is the right option.

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