Many people don’t realize they have allergies, but instead think they’re suffering from the common cold or a viral infection. While the symptoms can be similar, a fever and body aches are not associated with allergies. And, the common cold will go away within seven to 10 days while allergies last longer.
Allergies are caused by your body overreacting to an allergen. The severity of common allergy symptoms can vary from year to year and include:
- Runny nose
- Post-nasal drip
- Nasal congestion
- Sinus pressure
- Watery and red eyes
More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Allergies can happen at any age and you rarely outgrow seasonal allergies. The most common causes of allergies or allergens include:
- Insect stings
- Animal dander
*The correlation of allergy symptoms to pollen counts is somewhat tenuous. It is valid in some people but not in everyone.
There is no reason anyone should suffer from allergies and deny themselves the pleasure of the outdoors, especially with the short summers we have in Minnesota. There are many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription treatment options for allergies, and with so many choices, we can control close to 100 percent of allergic conditions.
Many of the medications available OTC today required a prescription just three to five years ago. Medication costs vary greatly, so it’s important to shop and compare prices.
Treatment options include nose sprays, eye drops and allergy pills. One, or a combination of these OTC medications, can provide relief and control allergy symptoms for most people. Your pharmacist can help you determine the appropriate dose based on your age and symptoms.
Following are the most common OTC allergy medications available today:
- Allergy pillsrelieve runny nose, sinus pressure and itchy and watery eyes. The most common brands include Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec.
- Nasal sprayshelp with nasal congestion, sneezing and runny and itchy nose. Brands include Flonase and Nasacort.
- Eye dropsrelieve itchy, irritated eyes. The most common brand is Zaditor.
Identify your allergens
If these OTC products don’t provide relief from your allergy symptoms, don’t suffer in silence. Find out what exactly you’re allergic to by visiting an allergy specialist or allergist.
You’ll be tested for a variety of allergens to identify the specific cause of your allergic reaction. An allergist can help you identify ways to avoid allergens and minimize your symptoms, as well as more natural ways to control symptoms without medications. For example, using a neti pot to rinse your sinuses with a saline solution can relieve sinus symptoms and triggers before they have a chance to cause inflammation.
I don’t recommend staying indoors in air conditioned rooms to avoid allergens because denying yourself the pleasure of the outdoors is not practical, and there are so many health benefits to being outside.
Once you identify what triggers your allergic reaction, allergy shots or immunotherapy combine your trigger substances into an injection and slowly desensitize your body to these allergens. Allergy shots are given at regular intervals over three to five years to stop or reduce allergic reactions and train your immune system not to overreact to your triggers.
Most people react to insect stings with swelling and redness that can be managed with ice and Benadryl. But for some, insect stings can cause life-threatening reactions like closing of the throat and shortness of breath. If you have a life-threatening or systemic reaction to the venom of honey bees, yellow jackets, yellow hornets, white faced hornets and paper wasps, you should see an allergist for desensitization treatment.