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How Do Mast Cell Stabilizers Work?

Mast cell stabilizers work by preventing the release of histamine from mast cells (cells that make and store histamine). Some of these drugs also have important anti-inflammatory effects, but typically they are not as effective as steroids.

What Are the Side Effects of Mast Cell Stabilizers?

Throat irritation, coughing or skin rashes sometimes can occur with inhaled mast cell stabilizers. Some people associate a bad taste with the use of Tilade. Using a spacer to take the medicine and drinking juice following treatment may decrease the taste. Mast cell stabilizers in the form of eye drops may cause burning, stinging, or blurred vision when they are administered.

Leukotriene Modifiers

Leukotriene modifiers are used to treat asthma and nasal allergy symptoms. They can be prescribed along with other drugs.

These medications are available only with a doctor's prescription and come as pills, chewable tablets, and oral granules.

Examples of leukotriene modifiers include:

  • Accolate (zafirlukast)
  • Singulair (monteleukast)
  • Zyflo (zileuton)

 

How Do Leukotriene Modifiers Work?

Leukotriene modifiers block the effects of leukotrienes, chemicals produced in the body in response to an allergic reaction.

What Are the Side Effects of Leukotriene Modifiers?

Side effects of these drugs are rare, especially for Accolate and Singulair, but may include:

  • Stomach pain or stomach upset
  • Heartburn
  • Fever
  • Stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Behavioral issues

 

Other Over-The-Counter Products

Some simple over-the-counter products can help with allergy symptoms. They include:

  • Saltwater solution, or saline, is available as a nasal spray to relieve mild congestion, loosen mucus, and prevent crusting. These sprays contain no medicine.
  • Artificial tears, which also contain no medicine, are available to treat itchy, watery, and red eyes.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be the most effective form of treatment if you suffer from allergies more than three months of the year. These shots expose you to gradually increasing levels of the offending allergen to help your immune system build tolerance. 

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 -- the goal is to boost a patient’s tolerance of allergy triggers.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on May 19, 2014
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