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4 Reasons Your Allergies Aren't Improving

Hounded by allergies? Find out what the problem might be.
By Tammy Worth
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Got allergies that don't seem to get better, no matter what you do? Check these four common reasons why allergies don't improve -- and what to do about it. Tightening up in these four areas may go a long way toward reducing allergy symptoms of all kinds.

Reason #1: Cutting Corners

Nonadherence -- that is, not doing all you can, all the time, to control your allergies -- is the No. 1 reason people fail to do well with their allergy treatment, says Baruch Friedman, MD, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and chief of the allergy and clinical immunology division at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore.

Allergist Myron Zitt, MD, of the Mid Island Allergy Group in New York, agrees. He is allergic to dogs and, though he knows better, owns one. Zitt continues to have symptoms, but is willing to "grin and bear it" because he loves the family pet.

Every day, Zitt treats patients who are in similar predicaments – they can't bear to lose an animal, quit smoking, or stop eating cheese – and, as a result, they keep having problems with allergies despite treatment.

"They are constantly being bombarded by allergens and are not as responsive to medication," Zitt tells WebMD. "They are always exposed to the allergens that trigger an inflammatory process."

Whether keeping a pet, missing allergy shot appointments, or jogging outside on a day with high pollen counts, Friedman sees a lot of patients who have difficulty sticking to their regimen.

"People want a quick fix and don't want to do some basic, fundamental things that can make them better," he says.

The fix: Constantly towing the line can be a hassle, but it's important to be vigilant, Friedman says. If you've got pollen allergies, leave car windows up even on nice days and stay inside or walk at the mall when pollen counts are high. If you've got a pet allergy and you insist on keeping your pet, keep the animal off the bed and furniture. If you have a food allergy, avoid that food all the time -- even on special occasions or when you just want a little bit. Allergies don't cut you any slack, even just this once.

Reason #2: Medication Mistakes

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their allergy medicine is simply forgetting to take it. To prevent this common problem, Zitt simplifies medication therapy when possible and has his patients link the time they take it to another activity to help them remember. For instance, he tells the patient to take a nighttime dose before brushing their teeth and put a morning medication by their alarm clock.

Taking medicine properly is another challenge. And even little mistakes can make a difference.

For example, the most potent medications used for nasal allergies are intranasal steroid sprays, Zitt says. If used incorrectly or sprayed at the wrong angle, however, they can be rendered ineffective. The same goes for inhalers, which have to be activated and used properly.

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