There are three principles to allergy management: avoidance, medication and immunotherapy. Foods that cause allergies can usually be avoided by careful dietary choices. Pets can be removed from the house and dust and mold can be reduced with good housekeeping. However, outdoor pollens can hardly be avoided without locking yourself indoors. During peak allergy seasons, most patients treat themselves with over the counter antihistamines. A variety of prescription medicines are available with a physician’s advice. However, when allergens cannot be avoided and medication is no longer satisfactory, then immunotherapy is an option. Immunotherapy offers the only true cure for allergies and asthma, by desensitizing the patient specifically to tolerate the offending antigens.
Reducing Airborne Allergens at Home
- Keep doors and windows closed
- Use a high efficiency (HEPA) air filter
- Use allergy-proof mattress and pillow covers
- Reduce clutter and non-washable surfaces
- Remove carpets, draperies and dust ruffles
- Remove pets or bathe them twice weekly
- Avoid tobacco and fireplace smoke
- Place plush toys in the clothes dryer for 20 minutes or in the freezer for one week
Antihistamines such as Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Allegra (fexofenadine) provide fast-acting relief of occasional itching, sneezing and watery drainage. Topical antihistamines such as azelastine are particularly fast-acting. For seasonal or year-round allergies and nasal congestion, a prescription nasal steroid spray such as Flonase (fluticasone) or Nasonex (mometasone) provides the best overall symptom control. Nasal steroids are very safe, but must be used daily to be effective. By contrast, decongestants such as Sudafed (pseudoephedrine), Afrin (oxymetazoline), and Neo-Synephrine (phenylephrine) can cause high blood pressure and rebound nasal congestion – these should be used infrequently.
Immunotherapy has been used for almost 100 years to treat allergic diseases. It is the only treatment shown to truly cure or prevent asthma and allergies. Studies have shown that immunotherapy is less expensive than daily medical management. Eighty percent of our patients experience improvement within 6 months. We are pleased to offer both sublingual immunotherapy and traditional subcutaneous immunotherapy at Richmond ENT.