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Allergies Health Center

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9 FAQs About Allergy Relief

1. What will my doctor do to help my allergies?

First, your doctor will figure out what you’re allergic to.

The doctor will examine you and take your medical history and your family’s allergy history. Then she may do a series of skin tests or a blood test to see what you have a reaction to. That will help decide which treatment you should take. Or she may suggest trying an allergy medicine that can help no matter what you're allergic to. Medicines can often help with your allergies to foods, pollen, dust, perfumes, plants, or animal dander.  

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2. How do steroid nasal sprays work?

With allergies, your nasal passages and sinuses get inflamed when they’re exposed to triggers like pollen, animal dander, or dust mites. Steroid nasal sprays can be effective drugs for allergies, because they ease or end inflammation. It takes a while, though. You will probably feel better -- with less swelling and mucus -- within one to two weeks of starting a nasal steroid spray. You have to use it every day to keep feeling better.

3. Do allergy shots work?

Yes, over time. They help if you’re allergic to pet dander, pollens, dust mites, certain molds, and bee stings. They work by injecting tiny amount of what you’re allergic to under your skin. At first, you’ll get shots once or twice a week. Later you’ll get shots about once a month, for a period of years. Gradually your body gets used to the allergen and your symptoms get better.

Also, the FDA has approved three under-the-tongue tablets that can be taken at home. The prescription tablets, called Grastek, Ragwitek, and Oralair, are used for treating hay fever and work the same way as shots and drops -- the goal is to boost a patient’s tolerance of allergy triggers.

4. What other medicines help?

Antihistamines and decongestants can make you less stuffy so you can breathe better. Antihistamines help sneezing, itching, congestion, and runny nose. Decongestants shrink blood vessels and keep fluid from leaking into the lining of your nose.

Some medicines have both antihistamines and decongestants. Be sure to read the label to understand the side effects.

5. What are allergy triggers, and how do I avoid them?

Getting rid of the things you’re allergic to at home or at work will help. Look for things like pet dander, dust mites, cold air (air conditioning vent or ceiling fan), cigarette smoke, perfume or other scented products, and aerosols. Pay attention to pollen counts.

If you have both allergies and asthma, use an air filtration system at home.

6. What's the difference between an allergy and an allergen?

The allergen is the trigger -- the thing you’re allergic to. With an allergy, you may sneeze, cough, wheeze, itch, or have a skin rash.

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