According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 8 out of 10 people self-medicate during allergy season. This would be fine, if these people did adequate research about their health issues and the medicines that can cure these issues before choosing the medication. However, many allergy sufferers have little knowledge about how different types of medications work and what specific symptoms they treat. This is why it’s important to throw light on the truth about allergy medicine aisle and allow consumers to make more informed and safer decisions about consuming medicines.

Treatment Myths

Since most allergy medications are available without a prescription; most people never consult a doctor throughout the entire allergy season. This has resulted in a number of “myths” regarding various treatments that people have started to believe. Unfortunately, such myths can often keep sufferers in the dark about their proper treatment options.

    1. Over-the-counter medications are always the best option. In reality, most OTC allergy medications only treat basic allergy symptoms – they do little to actually relieve the inflammation that often allows those symptoms to occur. Prescription medications are often far more effective at relieving the base symptoms of allergies and can often do so without the risk of drowsiness or malaise.
    2. Decongestant nasal sprays can be addictive, making matters worse. In fact, these OTC sprays are not technically addictive, but people do tend to overuse them because they simply aren’t as effective as prescription sprays. Prescription nasal sprays can provide relief faster, which reduces the chance of their being used for prolonged periods of time.
    3. Allergy shots are too expensive and time consuming. Immunotherapy and inoculations are often far more effective than OTC medications. And while they may cost more up front, their success rate reduces the chance that the allergy sufferer will need additional medication, actually saving them money in the long run and providing much more relief.
    4. Blood tests are the most effective way to diagnose allergies. In fact, skin tests performed by a knowledgeable allergist are often far more effective than blood tests. These skin tests are perfectly safe, and often give allergy sufferers a true and a more complete picture of their allergy profile.

Types of Medication

In order to treat allergies properly, it’s important to know what types of medications are out there and which specific symptoms they treat. There are a number of medications designed to treat allergies, but none are all-encompassing and some may interact with one another, so it is best to consult with your doctor and discuss on the best medication for your specific set of symptoms.

    • Antihistamines / Decongestants – These are the most common types of allergy medications. Usually available as nasal sprays, they help relieve nasal symptoms by shrinking inflamed mucous membranes in the nose. OTC versions can cause drowsiness, while many prescription medications usually do not.
    • Eye Drops – Some eye drops only provide a wetting solution that helps keep itchy eyes cool and moist, which others include an antihistamine that helps the eye fight off the effects of pollen.
    • Corticosteroid Cream – These steroid creams can help relieve the itchiness of skin rashes and inflammation caused by direct exposure to an allergen.
    • Corticosteroid Nasal Spray – These sprays help reduce the inflammation that leads to the nasal symptoms. Usually available only by prescription, they often lack the ingredients present in OTC sprays that can lead to drowsiness.
    • Cromolyn Sodium – Another treatment for nasal inflammation and congestion, Cromolyn has proved to be both safe and effective, even when used over long periods of time.
    • Oral Corticosteroids – Usually reserved only for severe allergic reactions, these steroids are usually administered in the hospital or under the close observation of a doctor.
    • Allergy Shots – Immunotherapy works similarly to vaccinations. Allergens are introduced to the body in increasing doses, allowing the person to build up immunity to the allergens.

No matter what type of allergy therapy one pursues, it’s important to have all the facts about the various medications and treatments available. Having this information will not only reduce one’s risk of overspending or over-medicating, but it will also reduce the risk of potentially serious reactions. It’s also important to remember that persistent, life-disrupting allergy symptoms usually mean that over-the-counter remedies are not working, and a visit to a doctor or allergist might be the right course of action.

For seasonal allergy treatment, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP

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