How Do You Treat Allergies?
Allergies affect an estimated 50 million people in the United States. Symptoms can range from bothersome to life-threatening. They can occur at any stage in life and impact daily activities as well as sleep. They are among the most common reasons for missed school or work. Many people are allergic to allergens in the environment. See how a board certified allergist can help you identify and control the cause of your symptoms.
Allergic conditions exist in many forms. A board certified allergist is trained to diagnose and treat:
The first step in treating allergies is an accurate diagnosis. The allergy specialists at Atlanta Allergy & Asthma are experts in identifying what is causing your symptoms and recommending a treatment plan that will significantly improve your quality of life.
Treating Environmental Allergies
Environmental allergies are substances in your environment that cause your immune system to overreact. These substances, called allergens, are usually harmless — unless you have an allergy to one or more of them. The most common environmental allergens include pollen, mold, pet dander/saliva, dust mites, and cockroaches.
If you suffer from seasonal and/or year-round environmental allergies, your allergists may speak with you about:
- Allergen Avoidance Measures
- Allergen Immunotherapy
There are measures you can take to avoid the allergens that cause your symptoms. However, for those allergic to allergens in the environment, that can prove challenging. Your allergist may suggest one or more medications, either over the counter or prescription. This can include antihistamines that help control sneezing, runny nose, and itchy/watery eyes, or decongestants as a short-term solution to shrink the lining of the nasal passages which relieves nasal stuffiness. An intranasal corticosteroid, or nasal steroid spray, is considered the first-line treatment for allergic rhinitis and relieves all symptoms of AR. For some, medications can work for treating the symptoms of environmental allergies.
Often medications and avoidance measures do not provide adequate symptom control. For those looking for a more permanent solution for allergy symptoms and/or a way to reduce their reliance on medications, allergen immunotherapy may be the answer.
Allergy immunotherapy is the only disease-modifying treatment for allergy sufferers. As the closest thing we have to a cure, immunotherapy treats the cause of your allergies and is targeted to your individual allergen profile based on specific testing.
There are three forms of immunotherapy.
Allergy Shots are a series of injections that help control and reduce allergy symptoms. Allergy shots are not a medication, but rather a natural approach to increasing your tolerance towards the substances to which you are allergic.
How Do Allergy Shots Work?
Allergy shots work by injecting you with trace amounts of the allergens that are causing your allergic symptoms. By gradually increasing the doses of your allergy extract, your body develops an immunity or tolerance, thereby reducing or even eliminating your allergic symptoms.
Allergy shots occur in two phases. The Build-up Phase is where the patient receives a routine series of injections with increasing amounts of the allergens. The patient will come in more frequently until the effective extract dosage is reached. The patient then enters the Maintenance Phase as the body begins to show a tolerance to the allergic triggers. At that point the visits become less frequent but will continue until the patient can maintain effective symptom control.
Are Allergy Shots Effective?
Research has clearly shown the effectiveness of allergen vaccine immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis. It is also highly effective for stinging insect allergies. Allergy shots suppress the underlying allergy response providing long-term relief. Studies also demonstrate that allergy shots significantly reduce health care use and costs among children and adults with allergic rhinitis (hay fever). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that 85% of people with allergic rhinitis will benefit from allergy shots within the first year, lessening their symptoms and need for medication.
Additional research shows that children receiving allergy shots are less likely to develop asthma. In 2020, The NIH released updated guidelines for diagnosis, management and treatment of asthma. These guidelines recommended allergy shots as an extra treatment for people with mild to moderate allergic asthma.
Allergy drops, (sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT), are a series of liquid drops placed underneath the tongue containing traces of your specific allergens. By gradually introducing these allergens into your system, your body develops an immunity or tolerance to your allergic triggers. Clinical research shows that allergy drops may not be as effective as allergy shots and present challenges to patients who are allergic to multiple allergens. However, they do work and can be very helpful for certain types of allergy patients. Although allergy drops have been used in Europe for years and are completely legal in the U.S., at this time they are not yet approved by the FDA and are considered an investigational therapy. Since they are not approved by the FDA, insurance companies are not currently reimbursing for this treatment.
Allergy tablets are another form of oral immunotherapy and have been approved by the FDA for use in the United States. Like allergy drops, these fast-dissolving tablets are placed under the tongue and work to help the body build tolerance to allergens through consistent exposure. They may be indicated for patients with specific sensitivities, like ragweed or grass pollen
Speak with your board-certified allergy specialist at Atlanta Allergy & Asthma to determine what treatment option is best for you.
You may visit our Immunotherapy page for additional information including which patients will benefit the most from this therapy, treatment duration and restrictions.