Avoiding indoor allergens

For some people, allergy season lasts all year and its symptoms strike close to home. It can be challenging to avoid your allergy triggers when they're all over your house, but it can be done.

Deal with dust. Keep the house as dust-free as possible. When dusting, use a damp cloth. The dust will cling to the cloth better this way, keeping it from floating off into the air. Regularly wash bedding linens in hot water, and choose sturdy but lightweight fabric blankets that can withstand weekly washings.

The vacuum may seem like an ally to those with allergies, but older vacuums can actually stir up dust. If you can, either wear a protective face mask or find a newer model vacuum with a high efficiency particulate air filter, better known as a HEPA filter. Also, remember to routinely change the vacuum dust bags or clean the dust collector. If all else fails, ask someone else to vacuum for you.

Smooth the surfaces. Dust clings to random clutter like clothes, books, and paperwork. Piles of pillows may please the eye, but they're dust collectors, too, as are stuffed toys. Houseplants seem like they would be good for the air, but they tend to accumulate dust and mould.

You can regularly wipe down surfaces to get rid of dust, but you can also simply reduce the number of dust-gathering surfaces in your home. Opt for hardwoods or linoleum over carpet and rugs, and choose window shades instead of heavy fabric curtains or dust-catching blinds.

Minimize the mould. A cool, well-ventilated home with low humidity levels will invite less mould. Closed-in spaces such as closets, basements, and especially bathrooms are mould magnets. Shower curtains tend to get mouldy after repeated use and should either be regularly bleached or simply replaced.

Protect yourself from pet dander. Unfortunately, most experts would recommend removing allergy-causing animals from the house. You may also want to consider implementing a strict "No pets allowed" policy in bedrooms. Another option is to adopt a hypoallergenic pet that is less likely to cause allergic reactions.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Allergy-Prevention-and-Treatment

Avoiding outdoor allergens

Pollen plays such a pivotal role in the cycles of the natural world. Pollen causes the telltale seasonal shifts in plants, grasses, and weeds. Pollen also causes the telltale seasonal allergy symptoms so many people suffer from at various times throughout the year.

How can a person prone to seasonal allergies coexist with nature without sneezing, sniffling, and coughing?

Know your triggers. Pollen is the number one culprit in most outdoor seasonal allergies, but pollen from where? Tree pollen causes most springtime symptoms, and the pollen from grasses and weeds set off summer and fall sneezing fits.

Leave pollen where it belongs. Pollen is not as sticky as some allergens but it can come into your house in the air; on your clothes, skin, and hair; and on the fur of pets. Keep the windows closed during allergy seasons, and regularly clear out air filters and air ducts. After being outside in "danger" zones, remove any shoes and clothing that may have gotten soiled with pollen. Take a shower, or at least wash your hands and rinse out your eyes and nose.

Sidestep your triggers. Nature doesn't have to be your enemy! Try to minimize your exposure to your known allergy triggers and if you have seasonal allergies, make the best of the times of the year when you're not suffering from allergy symptoms. For example, if you're allergic to spring tree pollen, save campouts and picnics for late summer or early autumn. If autumn ragweed stuffs you up, make spring your hiking season.

Watch the weather. Pollen is the substance that plants such as trees, weeds, and grasses use to fertilize new seeds for growth. A pollen count is the number of grains of plant pollen per cubic meter, usually measured over a 24-hour period. Most weather forecasts feature pollen counts that can give you a rough estimate of daily allergy hazards, so pay attention to these and limit your time outdoors on days when the pollen counts soar. Pollen counts are also highest in the morning, so try to stay indoors until later in the day.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Allergy-Prevention-and-Treatment

Allergy treatment basics

Sometimes, avoiding allergens is just not possible or not enough to prevent the troublesome symptoms of allergic rhinitis. When this happens, allergy treatment using medications may be necessary.

There are a wide range of treatments available for allergy sufferers, including prescription and non-prescription products. These include:

  • nasal medications
  • eye drops
  • oral medications
  • allergy shots
  • nasal sprays and rinses

Nasal medications are often prescribed to help alleviate nasal symptoms. These medications take some time to work and do not provide immediate relief – they need to be used regularly for at least a week to see relief.

Eye drops are available both by prescription and over the counter to manage itchy, dry eyes associated with allergies. Though these products provide quick relief of your symptoms, the effect doesn't last very long. Fortunately, you can use them as needed. Do not keep these eye drops over a long period of time as bacteria can grow in them. It is best to throw them away 1 month after you open the bottle.

Oral allergy medications (taken by mouth) are also available by prescription or over the counter. These medications can help with numerous symptoms such as itchy eyes and runny nose. Oral allergy medications can sometimes cause drowsiness and other side effects. The newer "non-drowsy" products will cause less drowsiness and are much better for day time use. However, people may respond to these differently. Until you know how these products affect you, do not take them before tasks requiring focus like driving a car.

Allergy shots are a newer development in the realm of allergy solutions. These are available by prescription only and are very specific to your particular allergen. Speak with your doctor if you're interested in trying this treatment.

Over-the-counter saline nasal sprays and rinses can help clean and moisturize the nasal passages. These can be used regularly, or just when you need them. They can alleviate signs and symptoms of  mild allergies such as itching, runny nose, and congestion by washing away the allergens. If you use other nasal medications, remember to use the rinse first, so you don't wash away the other medications!

If you are able to predict when your allergies start (e.g., seasonal allergic rhinitis), you should start preventative measures (including medication) beforehand so that your symptoms are minimized. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you find a treatment that's right for you.

When choosing a treatment, you should consider the following factors:

  • What are the side effects?
  • How often do I need to use the medication?
  • How long do I have to use the medication?
  • Will it interact with my other medication(s)?
  • How quickly will I get relief?
  • Will the treatment resolve all my allergy symptoms?

What can you expect from your allergy therapy? Goals for allergy prevention and treatment include:

  • prevention of allergy symptoms (e.g., by avoiding your allergy triggers)
  • relief and control over the symptoms caused by your allergies
  • minimal or no side effects from the medications

If you are already treating your allergies and are not achieving these goals, consider talking to your doctor about your allergy treatment options. Use our Doctor Discussion Guide to help you prepare for your visit.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Allergy-Prevention-and-Treatment

Nasal medications

Nasal medications (nose sprays) for allergies are available in a few different classes.

Nasal medications for allergies available in Canada include:

  • non-prescription
    • decongestants
      • oxymetazoline (Dristan®, and others)
      • phenylephrine (Little Noses Decongestant Nasal Drops®, and others)
      • xylometazoline (Balminil Nasal Decongestant®, Otrivin®, and others)
    • mast cell stabilizers
      • sodium cromoglycate (Cromolyn® and others)
  • prescription
    • anticholinergics
      • ipratropium (Atrovent Nasal Spray®)
    • antihistamines
      • levocabastine (Livostin Nasal Spray®)
    • corticosteroids
      • beclomethasone (Gen-Beclo AQ® and others)
      • budesonide (Rhinocort Aqua® and others)
      • ciclesonide (Omnaris®)
      • flunisolide (Rhinalar® and others)
      • fluticasone furoate (Avamys®)
      • fluticasone proprionate (Flonase® and others)
      • mometasone (Nasonex®)
      • triamcinolone acetonide (Nasacort AQ®)

Nasal decongestants provide temporary relief from congestion. However, they should not be used for more than 3 to 7 days because nasal congestion can return or get worse once you stop the medication. Since allergic rhinitis usually requires long-term treatment, it's best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which medication is right for you.

Mast cell stabilizers help with nasal itchiness, sneezing, and runny nose. They work by stopping the action of mast cells, which are thought to be involved in your body's allergic reaction response. They work best when used as a preventative measure, before allergy symptoms start. Otherwise, it may take up to 4 weeks to feel relief. Dosing may be up to 4 times a day. Side effects may include local irritation, sneezing, stinging, bad taste in the mouth, and nosebleeds.

Antihistamines help relieve nasal itchiness, sneezing, and runny nose. They work by stopping the action of histamine, which is a substance in your body that causes an allergic response when you are exposed to an allergen. It is used 2 to 4 times a day. Side effects may include nasal irritation, drowsiness, nosebleeds, dry mouth, and headaches.

Anticholinergics are used to relieve a runny nose associated with allergies. They work by blocking the secretion of mucous in the nose. It is used 2 or 3 times a day. Side effects may include headaches, nosebleeds, nasal irritation, dry nose, and sore throat.

Corticosteroids are used to help relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including itching, congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. They work by locally reducing inflammation in the nose that is involved in an allergic reaction. The dosing of corticosteroids is once or twice a day, depending on the medication selected. Side effects of corticosteroids may include burning, stinging, nasal irritation, headaches, nosebleeds, sore throat, changes in taste, and dry mouth.

Each person may respond differently to medications and some not everyone experiences the same side effects. If side effects are a concern for you, talk to your doctor about which nasal spray would best suit you.

To use the nasal spray:

  1. First, gently blow your nose.
  2. Wash your hands well with soap and water.
  3. You may need to prime the nasal spray pump first but spraying it a few times into the air until a fine mist appears.
  4. Keep your head upright or tilted slightly forward.
  5. Use the "opposite hand to opposite nostril" technique. With your right hand, spray the medication into the left nostril toward the outside of the nose. Remember to breathe in deeply through your nose as you pump the spray.
  6. Repeat for the other nostril.
  7. Put the cap back on the nasal spray container.
  8. For more detailed instructions, see the package insert for your particular medication or check with your doctor or pharmacist.

People with certain medical conditions should not take some of these nasal medications. To ensure you are taking the most appropriate medication, inform your doctor and pharmacist of any other medications you are taking and of any medical conditions you have.

You should follow your doctor's and pharmacist's instructions on using the medication to ensure you get the most benefit from it. If you are taking any of these medications and your allergy symptoms do not go away completely, talk to your doctor.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Allergy-Prevention-and-Treatment

Eye drops

Eye drops used to treat allergies are specifically for eye symptoms such as red, itchy, and watery eyes.

Eye drops for allergies available in Canada include:

  • non-prescription
    • antihistamine and decongestant combination products
      • phenylephrine - pheniramine (AK Vernacon®)
    • decongestants
      • naphazoline (Clear Eyes®, Naphcon Forte®, and others)
      • oxymetazoline (Claritin Eye Allergy Relief®, Visine Workplace®, and others)
    • mast cell stabilizers
      • sodium cromoglycate (Cromolyn®, Opticrom®, and others)
  • prescription
    • antihistamines
      • emedastine (Emadine®)
      • ketotifen (Zaditor®)
      • levocabastine (Livostin®)
      • olopatadine (Patanol®)
    • mast cell stabilizers
      • lodoxamide (Alomide®)
      • nedocromil (Alocril®)

Antihistamine eye drops provide relief of eye symptoms (i.e., ocular symptoms) in a few minutes. Decongestant eye drops also work in about 5 to 10 minutes. The mast cell stabilizers take a few days to see their full effects.

Dosing for these medications is usually 2 to 4 times a day, depending on the type of eye drops used. Side effects may include burning, stinging, eye irritation, headache, and changes in taste. Eye infections can occur, especially if the eye drops are not used properly.

To use the eye drops:

  1. First wash your hands thoroughly. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, remove them.
  2. Tilt your head back, and with your eyes open, create a little pocket with your lower eyelid by pulling it away from the eye.
  3. Look up towards the ceiling, then squeeze the eye dropper gently to instill 1 drop into the pocket.
  4. Close your eyes and apply gentle pressure to the corners of the eyes at the bridge of the nose to prevent the medication from draining into your tear duct.
  5. Repeat with the other eye, if applicable.
  6. Try not to touch the tip of the eye dropper onto your eye or any other surface.
  7. For more detailed instructions, see the package insert for your particular medication or check with your doctor or pharmacist.

People with certain medical conditions should not use some of these eye drops. To ensure you are taking the most appropriate medication, inform your doctor and pharmacist of any other medications you are taking and of any medical conditions you have.

You should follow your doctor's and pharmacist's instructions on using the medication to ensure you get the most benefit from it. If you are taking any of these medications and your allergy symptoms do not go away completely, talk to your doctor.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Allergy-Prevention-and-Treatment

Oral medications

Oral medications (i.e., taken by mouth) for allergic rhinitis include antihistamines and decongestants.

Oral medications for allergies available in Canada include:

  • non-prescription
    • antihistamines
      • cetirizine (Reactine® and others)
      • chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Tripolon® and others)
      • desloratadine (Aerius®)
      • diphenhydramine (Benadryl® and others)
      • fexofenadine (Allegra® and others)
      • loratadine (Claritin® and others)
    • antihistamine and decongestant combination products
      • cetirizine - pseudoephedrine (Reactine® Allergy & Sinus)
      • deslorataine - pseudoephedrine (Aerius® Dual Action)
      • fexofenadine - pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D®)
      • loratadine - pseudoephedrine (Claritin® Allergy & Sinus)
      • triprolidine - pseudoephedrine (Actifed®)
    • decongestants
      • phenylephrine (Sudafed PE® and others)
      • pseudoephedrine (Eltor®, Sudafed® and others)
  • prescription
    • antihistamines
      • azatadine (Optimine®)
    • leukotriene receptor antagonists
      • montelukast (Singulair®)

Antihistamines work by stopping the action of histamine, which is a substance in your body that causes an allergic response when you are exposed to an allergen. Antihistamines reduce the symptoms of eye itching, nasal itching, runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes, while oral decongestants help with nasal congestion. Desloratadine is an antihistamine that also relieves nasal congestion. Antihistamines and oral decongestants can be used together to relieve allergy symptoms.

The third type of oral allergy medications is leukotriene receptor antagonists (montelukast), which work by blocking leukotrienes. Leukotrienes are chemicals that are released by your body during an allergic response. They are also involved in causing allergy symptoms.

Side effects of oral medications

  • The side effects of antihistamines may include dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, difficulty urinating, and decreased reaction time. At normal recommended doses, cetirizine, desloratadine, fexofenadine, and loratadine have fewer side effects than other antihistamines.
  • The side effects of decongestants include headache, dizziness, dry mouth, palpitations (rapid, irregular heartbeat), tremor, and trouble sleeping. Normal doses of oral decongestants can also increase the blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure. People who have severe or poorly controlled high blood pressure should not take oral decongestants.
  • The most common side effects of montelukast include diarrhea, stomach pain, headache, thirst, itchy skin, and rash.

Some oral medications may affect people with certain medical conditions (including high blood pressure, glaucoma, and low thyroid) and may not be a suitable treatment option. To ensure that you are taking the most appropriate medication, inform your doctor and pharmacist of any other medications you are taking and any medical conditions you have.

You should follow your doctor's and pharmacist's instructions on taking the medication to ensure you get the most benefit from it. If you are taking any of these medications and your allergy symptoms do not go away completely, talk to your doctor.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Allergy-Prevention-and-Treatment

Allergy shots

Allergy shots may be needed when you are exposed to a lot of allergens (e.g., pollen, dust mites) that you cannot avoid, or when allergy symptoms are so severe that allergy medications can't control them.

Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, are designed to desensitize your immune system to your allergy triggers or allergens. Allergy testing identifies these allergens. Allergy shots contain a very small amount of the allergen, and when you receive allergy shots, your body makes antibodies to the allergen. The next time you are exposed to the allergen, the antibodies block the effect of the allergen so that your symptoms are less severe. Over the course of your allergy treatment, your immune system builds up tolerance to the allergens.

An allergist, a doctor who specializes in allergies, will determine the appropriate amount of allergen for the allergy shot. The dose is individually prepared using standardized extracts of the specific allergen. For example, if you are allergic to grass, then standardized grass pollen will be used to prepare the allergy shots.

You need to get allergy shots about once or twice a week, over a period of several months. After about 3 to 7 months, your doctor may recommend that you start receiving allergy shots less often, called maintenance shots. Maintenance shots are given about once a month for 3 to 5 years. After this time, you may be able to stop having allergy shots.

Another type of immunotherapy uses modified extracts of allergens. These allergy shots are given over a shorter period of time and need to be given every year. For example, modified ragweed pollen can be given to people who have ragweed allergy before the ragweed season (which usually starts in mid-August).

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Allergy-Prevention-and-Treatment