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An allergy occurs when your body’s immune system sees a certain substance as harmful. It reacts by causing an allergic reaction.
Substances that cause allergic reactions are allergens.
There are many types of allergies. Some allergies are seasonal and others are year-round. Some allergies may be life-long.
It is important to work with your health care provider to create a plan to manage your allergy. Avoiding your allergens is the best way to prevent an allergic reaction.
These reactions occur like other types of allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever. What is different is that the drug gains access to the whole body rather than just the respiratory tract. Thus, it produces an allergic reaction throughout the body. The classical symptoms of this type of reaction are:
The most common form of this is hives.
This kind of reaction can involve many body systems. This is a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis (anna-fih-LACK-sis). Hives are usually present. But, the symptoms also may include:
There are other ways (that are not a classic allergic reaction) the immune system may react to a drug. For example, antibodies to certain drugs can destroy red blood cells. This destruction of red blood cells can cause anemia. The most common type of immune drug reactions are skin rashes (other than hives).
Good allergy treatment is based on your medical history, the results of your allergy tests and how severe your symptoms are. It can include three treatment types:
The best way to prevent symptoms and limit your need for allergy medicine is to avoid your allergens as much as possible. This includes removing the source of allergens from your home and other places you spend time. You can also reduce your symptoms to airborne allergens by washing out your nose daily. You can do this by using a nasal saline rinse using a squeeze bottle or a Neti pot.
Some people don’t take allergy medicines because they don’t think their symptoms are serious. They may say, “It’s only my allergies.” This can result in painful problems such as sinus or ear infections. Don’t take the risk. There are many safe prescription and over-the-counter medicines to relieve allergy symptoms. Here is a short list of allergy medicines:
Nasal corticosteroids are nose sprays
Antihistamines block histamine, a trigger of allergic swelling
Mast cell stabilizers keep your body from releasing histamine
Decongestants reduce stuffiness by shrinking swollen membranes in the nose
Corticosteroid creams or ointments relieve itchiness and stop the spread of rashes
Oral corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce swelling and stop severe allergic reactions
Epinephrine (ep-uh-NEF-rin) comes in a pre-measured and self-injectable device
Immunotherapy is a treatment option for some allergy patients. There are two common types of immunotherapy:
Allergy shots involve giving injections of allergens in an increasing dose over time. The person becomes progressively less sensitive to that allergen. Allergy shots can work well for some people with allergies to pollen, pets, dust, bees or other stinging insects, as well as asthma. Allergy shots do not usually work well for allergies to food, medicines, feathers, or for hives or eczema.
Dr. Patrick Donahue is the Medical Director for WakeMed Physician Practices – Urgent Care.
3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610