Millions of people are affected by allergies a year. Everyone who has allergies experiences different symptoms congestion, runny nose, sneezing, sniffling, coughing, red, itchy eyes, and swelling. Depending upon your symptoms will determine your treatment plan. There are several types of treatments available, alternative, home remedies, over the counter medicines and prescription medications. Not every treatment will work for everyone. You need to determine which treatment path works best for you. Medications are available to treat all the symptoms that coincide with allergies. There are even combination medications that will treat several symptoms at once. If you decide to treat with an allergy medication make sure you read the instructions before taking any. Plus many allergy medications can have side effects, so be sure to check the label before you buy it. Allergy medications include antihistamines, decongestants, steroids, bronchodilators, mast cell stabilizers, leukotriene modifiers, combination drugs, over the counter products, and immunotherapy. Many of these products are available in both over the counter and prescription grade. Most often it’s best to start with over the counter products and then consult your physician if your symptoms persist.

Histamines cause allergy symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching, and bodily secretions. Allergens trigger immune system cells known as mast cells to release histamines into the body. Histamines attach to blood vessel receptors causing them to enlarge. This is a catalyst that stimulates all the other allergy symptoms that can occur. Antihistamines prevent these symptoms from occurring by blocking histamine receptors. Anti histamines are available bovver the counter and can be prescription taken as pills, liquid, nasal spray or eye drops. Over the counter antihistamines include Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec and many more. Over the counter antihistamines can cause drowsiness. Non-sedative antihistamines are only available by prescription. Prescription antihistamines include Clarinex, Xyzal, Astelin as a nasal spray and Emadine and Livostin as eye drops.

Congestion is just one of many allergy symptoms. Blood vessel receptors in the nose swell and enlarge in response to allergens. Swelling produces mucous and fluid in the nasal passages, and throat and redness and swelling in the eyes. Decongestants shrink swollen tissues and blood vessels. They relieve symptoms of nasal swelling, congestion, mucus secretions and redness. Decongestants are often used alongside antihistamines to relieve allergy symptoms. Decongestants come in the forms of nasal sprays, eye drops, liquids, and pill forms. Nasal sprays and eye drop decongestants should only be used for a few days, because long-term use can make symptoms worse. Other forms of decongestants such as pills and liquid maybe taken for longer periods of time safely. Decongestants may raise blood pressure, cause insomnia, irritability and restrict urinary flow. Over the counter decongestants include Zyrtec- D, Sudafed, Afrin nasal sprays, Visine eye drops and Allegra D. Prescription decongestants such as Claritin D combine a decongestant with another allergy medicine.

Steroids, also known as corticosteroids are used to reduce swelling and inflammation caused by allergic reactions. Steroids prevent and treat allergy symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and itchy and runny nose. For allergies you can take corticosteroid pills, steroid inhalers for asthma and nasal sprays for nasal allergies. Steroids are very effective at treating allergy symptoms but must be taken daily to prove their benefit. Start taking steroids 1-2 weeks even if you are not having allergy symptoms so they can build up in your system before you see their full effect. A physician must prescribe steroids. Side effects of steroid use include cough, hoarseness, yeast infection of the mouth, weight gain, fluid retention, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, diabetes, cataracts, and bone thinning. Nasal steroids include Flonase, Nasonex, Rhinocort and Beconase. Inhaled steroids include Azmacort, Flovent, Pulmicort, Advair and Symbicort. Steroids in the form of eye drops include Alrex and Dexamethasone. Oral steroids include Deltasone and Prednisone.

Mast Cell Stabilizers
Mast cell stabilizers stop the release of histamines form mast cells. When consumed mast cell stabilizers have an anti inflammatory effect to treat inflammation in the bronchial tubes. They are available in inhalers, eye drops, and nasal sprays. Much like steroids, mast cell stabilizers must be taken for several weeks to feel their full benefit in the body. Some side effects of mast cell stabilizers include throat irritation, coughing, skin rashes, burning, stinging or blurred vision. Mast cell stabilizers include Intal, Tilade, Crolom, Alomide, Opticrom, Alamast and Nasalcrom.

Combination Drugs
Combination drugs for allergies contain both an antihistamine and a decongestant to reduce multiple symptoms at the same time. Other combinations include an allergy medicine with an asthma medication and an antihistamine with a mast cell stabilizer. Over the counter combination allergy medications include Allegra D, Caritan D, Zyrtec D, Benadryl Allergy and Sinus and Tylenol Allergy and Sinus. Prescription grade medications include Semprex D, Naphcom, Vasocon, Zaditor, Patanol and Optivar.

Immunotherapy is also known as allergy shots. Your physician can give allergy shots. These shots slowly expose the body to increased levels of allergens. This allows the body’s immune system to build up a tolerance to the allergen thereby decreasing the body’s allergic reaction and reducing the forthcoming symptoms. Immunotherapy is the most effective form of treatment for people who suffer from allergies more than 3 months out of the year.

Over the Counter Products
Additional over the counter products such as saline solution, neti pots, and artificial tears are available to minimize the affect of allergy symptoms in ones daily life. Although they do not contain any medicine these products can ease allergy symptoms on a daily basis.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Labdar graduated with a BA in exercise science and has worked in the medical field since. Her focus is alternative medicine and how it interacts and works in conjunction with traditional medicine.
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