Nipping Allergies In The Bud

Allergy sufferers may need to consider additional treatments if a daily antihistamine proves ineffective

Spring is almost here, but some of you may not be welcoming it. When trees, plants, and flowers bloom, it can be a time of unrelenting allergic reactions and the symptoms they produce, including a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes. Many people use oral antihistamines for their allergies, most of which are available over-the-counter. As their name suggests, these medications block histamine, a chemical in the body that causes symptoms in reaction to an allergy.

Antihistamines can be taken as needed or daily, depending on the severity and frequency of symptoms. But what do you do if you take a daily antihistamine and still get no relief?

“Some people require additional medications to control their symptoms,” explains Monica R. Kenney, MD, a Board-certified allergist at Coastal Allergy & Asthma, P.C.  “Over-the-counter options include nasal corticosteroid sprays, which may be used daily during peak season or throughout the year if necessary. These help control inflammation and reduce most symptoms of nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis. Oral decongestants may also be used as needed if nasal congestion is not relieved with other medication options.”

Dr. Kenney notes that patients with other chronic medical conditions may need to consult with their physicians before using these medications.

“There are additional medications that your physician can prescribe to help manage your symptoms, including leukotriene modifiers,” Kenney says.  Leukotrienes are one of a group of chemicals in the body that sustain inflammatory reactions. Leukotriene modifiers block their action and are used to treat allergic rhinitis as well as asthma.

But what if that still doesn’t stop your allergies?

“If symptoms are still not well-controlled, consider consultation with an allergist,” Kenney says. “We can help determine what your allergic triggers are, if any, and help implement an adequate treatment plan. This will include specific allergen avoidance, medications, or allergy immunotherapy if indicated. Immunotherapy—in the form of shots or oral tablets—is very effective in decreasing sensitivity to allergens. Over time, this will help diminish symptoms and reduce the need for long term medications.”

None of the above will help, of course, if the patient does not actually suffer from allergies. Dr. Kenney says that is the case with some patients.

“An allergist can help you determine if your chronic nasal symptoms are allergic or non-allergic,” she says. “This is important to determine in order to provide the best treatment options.”