Ear Nose Throat Allergy Snoring

Drugs, Shots and Drops for Allergy

Dr. Douglis Medical Articles: ALLERGY Medical Treatment

"Allergic rhinitis is certainly not a 'lifestyle' issue; it's a distinct, symptomatic—and costly—illness and it deserves a remedy." William Schneider, MD J.P. Morgan

Have you ever wondered what causes allergies in the first place? Allergies begin in your immune system, when you become sensitized to a certain substance. This could be mold, pollen, trees, animals, or even certain foods. When you eat or touch that substance, your body’s immune system reacts by sending out special chemicals, called histamines. What you feel is intense itching, swelling, production of mucus, hives, rashes and perhaps even muscle spasms.

For the most part, allergens that are inhaled, like pollens for example, will cause symptoms such as a stuffy nose, an itchy throat, mucus, coughing and maybe even wheezing. Food allergies, on the other hand, can cause abdominal pain and vomiting and even diarrhea. Allergies to plants, such as poison ivy, will most certainly cause skin rashes, whereas allergies to medications may involve many organs of the body.

Of course, symptoms vary from person to person, with some people suffering only slightly, perhaps a mild itching and watering of the eyes, while others find they must stay home in bed. Sometime, people experience such severe reactions it can be life-threatening. This is called anaphylaxis.

While all of these symptoms are frightening, it may be comforting to know that allergies are very common. If you suspect you are suffering with allergies, see your doctor, who will do some testing with the goal of reducing your symptoms so you can get back to enjoying life.

The best treatment for food allergies is to avoid the substance that is causing your allergy. While this is not always 100% possible, there are probably things you can do to cut down on your contact with the offending allergen. Avoiding offending foods, for example, can go a long way in treating food allergies. But first, you need to find out what is causing your symptoms. A visit to your doctor for tests will help you figure it out and plan a diet that will avoid the offending foods.

Inhalent allergens are very difficult to avoid unless you can move to a remote island where you can breath the fresh sea breeze. Fortunately there are many different kinds of medications (and herbal treatments) which can reduce your bodies allergic reaction. Let’s look at some common treatment options your doctor may prescribe for you:

  • Antihistamines are usually non-prescription medications that relieve mild to moderate symptoms, but they can make you feel sleepy, so you can’t take them when you are going about your regular daily routine, especially if you’re driving or operating machinery. An example of this type of medication is loratadine, known by the brand name Claritin, which used to be prescription-only but now is available over-the-counter. This type of medication is called “short-acting”, meaning it must be taken regularly to be effective.
  • Other types of antihistamines include fexofenadine, known by the brand name Allegra, and cetirizine, known by the brand name Zyrtec. These can cause less daytime drowsiness but require a prescription from your doctor. Also, these medications are longer-acting, so you may have to take less of them to achieve results.
  • Some of the newer antihistamines like Astelin and Patanase can be applied directly to the nose via a nasal spray.
  • Another treatment option is nasal corticosteroid sprays. Nasal sprays have been found to be very effective and safe for use with allergy sufferers who cannot find relief with antihistamines. Nasal corticosteroid sprays are available by prescription and include Flonase (fluticasone), Nasonex (mometasone), and Nasacort AQ (triamcinolone).
  • Moisturizers may be prescribed. These medications lubricate the mucous membranes, and help to relieve irritation and dryness. One commonly prescribed moisturizer is Guaifenesin, also known as Mucinex.
  • The prescription medication Singulair (montelukast) is known scientifically as a leukotriene inhibitor, helping to control asthma symptoms and relieve other symptoms caused by seasonal allergies.
  • Allergy shots , called immunotherapy, are sometimes recommended by your physician. Immunotherapy has been shown to reduc ethe need for medications and to reduce allergic symptoms. In immunotherapy, your doctor will give you shots that contain a small amount of the substance you are allergic to. This helps your immune system to recognize the allergen and stop over-reacting to it. Allergy shots are effective for most but not all people and regular doctor visits are required over months or years.
  • Allergy drops, used in Europe for over 60 years, are not yet FDA approved in the United States, but have been found to be an effective allergy therapy. Allergy drops are ‘sub-lingual’, that is, you place the tablet under your tongue, and the medication is instantly absorbed into your bloodstream, where it is delivered to your immune system.

Your doctor may also want you to try a decongestant for your nasal congestion symptoms. Nasal decongestants should not be used for more than a few days at a time, because it has been found that they can have the opposite effect, called “rebound”, over long periods of use and can actually make your congestion worse instead of better. Some decongestants are available in pill form and do not cause this “rebound” effect.

It may take a bit of trial and error to find out which medications, or combination of medications, works best in treating your specific symptoms. Some medicines, like the over-the-counter nasal spray Afrin, can become addicting. This is why it is best to remain under a doctor’s care while treating your allergies.

Dr.Franklin Douglis is a Board Certified specialist in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (Ear, Nose, and Throat). He attended the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine and completed his specialty training at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He has practiced medicine in Conroe, Montgomery County Texas and the Spring and Houston area since 1982. He has recently opened an office in Cleveland.