If you don’t know what you’re allergic to, you might consider allergy testing, Bajowala says.
In a skin test, a doctor inserts a tiny bit of the allergen itself under the skin, Bajowala says. If you’re allergic to that substance, redness and a bump will appear on your skin within minutes.
Blood tests detect antibodies to the pollens. Becker uses them for people who don't tolerate skin testing.
Who Should Consider Allergy Immunotherapy?
A final step is to consider allergy immunotherapy, better known as allergy shots. ''Immunotherapy is essentially a way of retraining your immune system to tolerate something that it is currently overreacting to," Bajowala says.
"What we do with immunotherapy is reintroduce in small amounts the very things the person is allergic to," she says. It’s a long-term method: It might take six months of regular injections to find the correct maintenance dose. The shots may reduce or eliminate your need for other allergy medications.
This maintenance dose may continue for three to five years, and the length of treatment varies. After that, Bajowala says, you can try stopping the shots and see if the symptoms recur. Some patients find relief after immunotherapy for up to 10 years, she says,
"The beauty of immunotherapy is it's very, very effective at decreasing symptoms and decreasing the amount of medication you need," she says.
Another kind of immunotherapy is under study. It involves putting an allergen under the tongue and is called sublingual immunotherapy (or allergy drops). But it's not yet approved in the U.S., Becker and Bajowala say.