Allergy Relief

Prescription relief for symptoms of perennial and seasonal allergies

Allergies are common conditions affecting approximately 1 in 4 people in the US. Allergies occur when the body is hypersensitive to a substance.

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Reviewed by Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Information last reviewed 08/03/20

About

What are allergies?

An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a food or substance, which causes allergic symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, or a rash. 

How allergies work

Different allergens (allergy-causing substances) can enter the body in different ways. For example, pollen is likely to be inhaled, food is likely to be eaten, and latex is likely to be in contact with the skin. 

When an allergen comes into contact with the body, the immune system overreacts. This is also referred to as ‘hypersensitivity’ because the body is too sensitive to the allergen and over-compensates. 

This overreaction produces the symptoms of an allergic reaction such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, or a rash. 

Most medications used to treat allergies are antihistamines. They work by reducing the immune system’s response to the allergen. 
 

How can Medzino help with allergies?

Medzino offers a wide range of FDA approved prescription medications for allergy relief:

  • Azelastine Nasal Spray - 137 mcg/spray (0.1%) - generic Astepro
  • Cromolyn Ophthalmic Eye Solution 4% - generic Crolom eye drops
  • Fluticasone Propionate Nasal Spray 50mcg - generic Flonase
  • Levocetirizine Dihydrochloride 5mg - generic Xyzal
  • Mometasone Furoate 50 mcg/actuation - generic Nasonex or Sinuva    
  • Montelukast 10mg - generic Singular
  • Olopatadine HCL 665 mcg/actuation - generic Patanase

These products can help to provide relief from seasonal allergies, pet allergies, and dust allergies etc. However, they may not be suitable for allergies that affect the skin and allergies caused by the ingestion of food or medications. Therefore, you should seek advice from your regular physician regarding these conditions. In addition, these products are not suitable for severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis. If you are at risk of anaphylaxis, you should speak to your doctor for advice. 
 

Causes

What allergies are there?

Allergic reactions are caused by substances known as allergens. Common allergens include:

  • Grass/pollen - also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis
  • Food - nuts, fruit, shellfish etc. 
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Animals - animal allergies are actually an allergy to the dander (tiny flakes of skin or hair) that an animal sheds
  • Medications
  • Dust mites
  • Latex - could be related to latex gloves or condoms
  • Mold
  • Household chemicals - laundry detergents, hair dyes, and cleaning products are common allergens

How allergies develop

Both genetic and environmental factors can lead people to develop allergies.

Are allergies genetic?

The likelihood of having an allergy is increased if one or both of your parents have the same allergy. The predisposition for some allergies can be detected via genetic testing. However, it is worth keeping in mind that many people do develop allergies that are not found in either parent. 

Why allergies develop from environmental factors

There are a number of environmental factors related to the development of allergies, including:

  • Regular exposure to the allergen
  • Exposure to smoke
  • Exposure to cleaning products
  • Viral infections
  • Medications
  • Air pollution
  • Pets
  • Diet

The immune system defends the body from infections. This helps us to fight off infections and to recover from illnesses. Sometimes, the immune system perceives an innocuous substance as a threat. These substances are called allergens. As the immune system perceives a threat, it tries to defend the body, which can produce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. To start with, the effects of this may go unnoticed, but as you are repeatedly exposed to allergens, the immune system can build an immunological memory. This is a valuable protective skill to improve the immune system's response when the threat is a real danger. But, this can also mean that the immune system starts to overreact when exposed to an allergen. 
 

What is the hygiene hypothesis?

The hygiene hypothesis is the idea that children who are brought up in a clean environment are more likely to develop allergies. This suggests that exposure to allergens from an early age may be protective against developing allergies. However, this hypothesis is not confirmed and does not take into account genetic and other environmental factors that can contribute to the development of allergies.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary from person to person and depend upon the allergen involved. For example, allergens such as pollen tend to be inhaled, causing respiratory symptoms such as sneezing and watering eyes. Whereas, a latex allergy tends to occur upon contact with the skin, so it is more likely to cause a localized rash instead. 

Allergy symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Itchy/watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea (common in food allergies)
     

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. If someone is experiencing anaphylaxis symptoms, it is vital that they get medical attention as soon as possible. Many people who have a known anaphylactic reaction to an allergen will carry an Epi-pen with them. An Epi-pen is a device that injects adrenaline. They are easy to use and contain simple instructions on the outside so you can help someone if they have an anaphylactic reaction. 

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

The symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Light-headedness
  • Fainting
  • Fast heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Collapsing
  • Loss of consciousness
     

When does an allergic reaction start?

Allergic reactions usually begin within a few minutes of exposure to the allergen. This is particularly true of reactions that involve the eyes, skin, or respiratory system. However, allergic reactions can begin several hours later in the case of food and other ingested allergens. 

When do allergies occur?

Allergies can begin at any stage of life. Food allergies, in particular, tend to develop in early childhood. Adult-onset allergies can also occur. This can be due to lifestyle changes meaning that a previously-undetected allergy becomes noticeable (e.g. getting a new pet and discovering you are allergic to it). However, adult-onset allergies can also occur spontaneously, with no obvious cause.

Diagnosis

How allergies are diagnosed

An allergist or an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist is someone you will see if over the counter medications do not relieve your symptoms. Symptoms of allergies vary from sneezing, rashes to troubled breathing. The doctors can recommend a few tests to find out for sure.

What is the skin test for allergies?

One of the most common and accurate methods to diagnose allergies is via a skin prick test. Circles are drawn on the arm or the back, and a small droplet containing an allergen is placed inside the circle. The skin is pricked or scratched with a needle to allow the body to respond to the allergen. The skin prick test can produce results within 15 minutes.

What is the allergy blood test?

Blood tests can also be used to detect allergies. This is usually done when a skin test is inconclusive or unsuitable. The blood sample needs to be sent to a lab for analysis, so it can take much longer to get the results. 

What is the elimination diet for allergies?

The elimination diet is used to identify possible food allergies. If a food allergy is suspected, the doctor may ask you to eliminate it from your diet completely. If the food was triggering an allergic reaction, your allergy symptoms would likely resolve.
 

What allergies do I have?

Without medical tests, it may not be possible to identify what you are allergic to. However, it might help to consider the following questions:

  • When do you usually experience your allergic reaction?
    If you experience your allergic symptoms after visiting a particular place, doing a specific task, or eating a certain meal, this may help you narrow down the possible triggers of your allergy.
  • Which parts of your body are affected by your allergic symptoms (e.g. a rash on the hands or a runny nose)?
    A rash on the skin, usually suggests that you have touched something that has caused the allergy. For example, a rash on the hands is common in people who are allergic to latex gloves. A runny nose, watering eyes, and wheezing suggest that you have inhaled an allergen such as dust or pollen.
  • Have you started doing anything different, which may have led to the development of this allergy?
    Do you have a new pet, have you changed your cleaning products or have you recently started dying your hair? Identifying any recent changes to your lifestyle or environment could elucidate something that has triggered your allergy.
  • Have you tried avoiding a potential trigger?
    You may already have an idea of what could be triggering your allergic symptoms. If you do, you could try avoiding it for a while to see if your allergy symptoms resolve.

Related Conditions

Allergies with asthma

Allergies and asthma often come together, but it is important to understand how allergies affect asthma. Allergens such as pollen and dust mites often trigger both allergic reactions and asthma symptoms. This is known as allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma. In allergic asthma, the allergens trigger allergy symptoms, but also affect the airway and lungs, causing asthma symptoms.

Treatment

How allergies are treated

Allergies can be treated with a range of different medications, including antihistamines, corticosteroids and immunotherapy.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines work by reducing the histamine levels in your body. When you come into contact with an allergen, the body produces histamine. It is histamine that leads to the symptoms of allergies such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing etc. 

Nasal Spray

Nasal sprays, such as Fluticasone, contain corticosteroids, which help to reduce inflammation in the nose. This helps to reduce sneezing, a runny nose, and other nasal irritation. 

Immunotherapy for allergies

Immunotherapy can take the form of tablets or injections. It retrains your immune system over several months by exposing you to small amounts of the allergen over time so you can build up a tolerance.
 

What to do when allergies affect your eyes

Allergies can cause itchy or watery eyes. Both antihistamine eye drops and oral antihistamines can help to alleviate these symptoms. 

What to do when allergies make you tired

Both allergies and antihistamines can make you tired. If you experience tiredness due to allergies, you may want to avoid taking antihistamines, which can cause drowsiness. If you experience drowsiness as a side effect of antihistamines, you should avoid driving or operating machinery. 

Can allergies go away naturally?

Some people do grow out of allergies as they get older, but this does not apply to everyone. Approximately 80% of children with an allergy to eggs, milk or wheat will have outgrown their allergy by age 16. A skin prick test or a blood test can help you to find out if your allergy has resolved.

Can allergies be cured?

Currently, there is no cure for allergies, but allergies can be treated. Treatments such as immunotherapy, which reduce your body's sensitivity to allergens, can help reduce your allergy symptoms more permanently.

What can you do about allergies without antihistamines?

Depending on the type of allergic reaction you experience, you may find that steroid nasal spray, eye drops, or immunotherapy are effective treatment options. Nasal sprays work well for nasal symptoms, eye drops can help to alleviate eye irritation, and immunotherapy can work for a wide range of allergies. However, immunotherapy is a long and expensive process, so it is usually only recommended for people with severe allergies that cannot be treated by other means. If you want to avoid medications altogether, the best option is to try to avoid the allergen as much as possible. 

Q&A

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You and your physician will determine if and how you should take any medication prescribed to you following a medical consultation.

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