When discussing allergies, every allergy physician wants you to know that allergies and allergic reactions do not have a permanent cure. These are immune generated responses that only happen in genetically susceptible individuals. Contrary to popular belief, as much as 30% of the adult and almost 40% of the pediatric population suffer from allergies.
Before we come down to the numerous treatment options available today to protect us from allergies, let’s start our discussion by defining allergies.
What Is an Allergy?
Allergies are defined as hypersensitive immune responses generated by our body to substances that either enter or come in contact with our bodies.
It is important to note that more often than not, these substances known as allergens in medical terms, are seemingly harmless everyday mundane things that don’t affect the rest of the population.
Common allergens to look out for include dust, strong scents such as perfumes, chemical substances, makeup and cosmetic items, animal dander, pollen and even everyday food items and drinks, to name a few.
Now that we know what allergies are, let’s discuss some of the over the counter and prescription options available to keep allergies at bay.
It is important to note that there is no cure, to date for a person suffering from allergies. A person remains allergic to the susceptible substance for a lifetime, though the severity of symptoms and quality of life improve significantly with treatment.
As the name suggests, antihistamines are available in both OTC and prescription options to treat the inflammatory responses generated by allergic reactions. They usually work by inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells in our body that are culprits of redness, itching, swelling and subsequent inflammation. Examples include fexofenadine, loratadine and cetirizine to name a few. The most common side effect that limits its use is the resultant sedation/drowsiness, which is why it is advisable to use it before going to bed.
Decongestants work by reducing the swelling of nasal and pharyngeal mucosa, with subsequent reduction in congestion, soreness and mucus production. They are often prescribed side to side with an antihistamine. They are available in liquid drop, pill, nasal spray and eye drop form. Some over the counter options include pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Decongestants should be absolutely avoided in hypertensive individuals and patients suffering from glaucoma. They may also cause urinary retention and insomnias.
Also known as corticosteroids, this class of antiallergic medications works by inhibiting the immune system at the cellular level. As a result, steroids can dramatically decrease redness, swelling, pain and subsequent inflammation. Steroids can be given both locally and systemically, they are available in a wide variety of forms such as pills, sprays, ointments and systemic injectables. OTC steroids include fluticasone, budesonide and triamcinolone. Prescription systemic steroids include prednisone/deltacortril. While the steroid class of drugs Does seem to be a magical drug, it comes with its own host of dangerous side effects if taken systemically or for longer durations of time. Examples include diabetes, hypertension, fluid retention, weight gain, osteoporosis and cataracts to name a few.
Mast Cell Stabilizers
Similar to the antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers work by stabilizing the mast cells at the cellular level to prevent the release of histamine. It is used in the management of mild to moderate allergic control. Common examples available in the market include cromolyn sodium and nedocromil. Side effects include throat irritation, skin rashes when ingested in pill form and dry eyes, irritation and blurred vision when taken in the form of eye drops.
These are a group of medications recently approved by the FDA in the management of nasal allergies and asthma. They act by inhibiting the formation of leukotrienes, a chemical substance produced in the body during an allergic reaction. It is available by the generic name of Montelukast sodium. Side effects include stomach pain, heartburn, cough, sore throat and skin rash to name a few.
And there you have it, a comprehensive guide to a list of medication used to treat allergies. Using this guide, you can narrow down your options and educate yourself about the side effects and usage of a particular drug. However, never take any medication for allergies without consulting an allergist doctor Manassas.