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Allergies are becoming more common than ever before. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), allergies are now the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. If your allergies are interfering with your daily activities, you may be wondering how to get rid of or better manage them.
Allergies can affect your quality of life. While there are many options available for treating allergy symptoms, many people want a better solution. There are additional steps you can take to prevent your allergy symptoms from bothering you.
Allergy shots, which are also known as allergen immunotherapy, are a long-term treatment option for people with severe allergy symptoms. Allergy shots can decrease symptoms such as:
- runny nose
- allergic asthma
- itchy eyes
- reactions to venomous insect bites such as bee stings
They may work well for most airborne triggers, including:
- dust mites
- mold spores
- pet and cockroach dander
- pollen (trees, grasses, weeds)
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says that allergy shots work by desensitizing you to the things you are allergic to. If your allergies are caused by pollen and cats, your injections will include tiny amounts of pollen and cat dander. Over time, your doctor will slowly increase the allergen amounts in your injection.
Allergy shots are given initially at frequent intervals. In the first few months, you’ll need to go to a doctor’s office for an injection once or twice per week. After that, you’ll need to go every few weeks. It can take months to notice a decrease in symptoms. The recommended total course of allergen immunotherapy is between 3 and 5 years.
Unlike other treatments, this type of immunotherapy can actually alter your immune system and may help prevent new allergies from developing.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend sublingual immunotherapy as an alternative to allergy shots, which can be taken at home by placing a small tablet under your tongue every day for 3 to 5 years. Currently, the only types of sublingual immunotherapy approved by the
- dust mites
Once treatment is completed, many people remain allergy-free for the rest of their lives. Some people may find that symptoms return after stopping the shots, however.
Home HEPA filters
Air filters and purifiers are designed to remove allergens from the air inside your home. There are different types of air filters available, and some work better than others.
To clean the air throughout your home, an air filter can be installed in your heating, ventilation, or air-conditioning system. If your home has forced air ventilation, switching your current filter to a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can make a big difference.
The California Air Resources Board says that these filters work by trapping particles as air passes through. You can also hire a professional to come in and clean out your ducts to remove additional allergens. This process can be expensive, but you shouldn’t need to do it more than once every 2 to 5 years.
HEPA filters are great at removing large particles from the air, including:
- dust mites
- pet dander
- some types of mold
They can also filter smaller particles, like viruses, bacteria, and smoke. The organization above also says that when used properly, HEPA filters can remove about 99.9 percent of particles above a certain size.
If you don’t have a forced air system, you can get a portable HEPA filter. These mechanical filters draw in dirty air, trap particles in the filter, and release clean air. These machines are designed for small spaces and are only capable of filtering a certain amount of air. Keep them in places where you spend the most time, such as your bedroom, office, or living room.
HEPA filters are the top-rated type of air filter, but you should do your research before purchasing one. Check to see if your filter or air cleaner is certified by the AAFA.
Making your bedroom an allergy-free zone can help you feel better throughout the day. Your sheets, pillows, and comforters make a cozy home for dust mites, pet dander, and mold.
Hypoallergenic bedding is made from materials that provide an effective barrier against these allergens. This prevents allergens from accumulating inside your pillows and comforters.
You can buy hypoallergenic bedding online.
Designed to be easily cleaned, hypoallergenic bedding can withstand the wear of a frequent wash cycle. Washing your bedding in hot water is critical to preventing the accumulation of allergens.
Hypoallergenic comforters and pillows are usually down-free because bedding made with goose down easily accumulates dust mites and mold. Down bedding is also very difficult to wash and dry.
Hypoallergenic bedding is free of irritating chemicals, so it’s also a good option for people with sensitive skin.
You can also get an allergen-resistant mattress pad or mattress encasement. According to the AAFA, a mattress encasement can reduce your allergy symptoms better than an air cleaner.
You can buy an allergen-resistant mattress pad or mattress encasement online.
There’s not much you can do to protect yourself from allergies when you are outside, but you should strive to make your home as allergy-free as possible. Combining a variety of different allergen-reducing techniques can make you more comfortable.
These techniques include:
- Cut down on pet dander. Consider a hypoallergenic dog, or give your dog or cat weekly baths to reduce dander accumulation. If your pet has long hair, consider getting them shaved. Keep your dog or cat out of your bedroom.
- Eradicate dust mites. Keep your home clean and uncluttered, get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting, and put protective covers on furniture cushions to keep your home free of dust mites.
- Vacuum. Vacuuming twice per week with a vacuum containing a HEPA filter reduces airborne allergens.
- Dehumidify. Mold thrives in moist, warm environments. Air out your bathroom after showers or run a dehumidifier to suck moisture from the air.
- Get rid of houseplants. House plants make a great home for dust mites and mold spores. Reduce your number of house plants and get rid of dried flowers.
- Control cockroaches. Cockroaches are common in urban areas and in the southern United States. Set traps and avoid leaving out food.
Allergies happen when your immune system mistakes a harmless substance for a foreign invader. When you come into contact with that substance, or allergen, your immune system releases histamine and other chemicals via pre-formed antibodies. Histamine causes symptoms such as itching, runny nose, and nasal congestion. Common allergens include:
- pet dander from cats and dogs
- certain foods
It’s unlikely that you can get rid of a food allergy, though sometimes children outgrow food allergies. You may be able to get rid of environmental allergies, however. Read on to learn what you can do to manage and possibly eliminate your allergies.
It’s not always possible to prevent allergy symptoms. Often, you can only treat symptoms as they arise. There are many prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) options available, including:
- antihistamines (Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, Xyzal)
- decongestant nasal sprays (Afrin)
- corticosteroid nasal sprays (Rhinocort, Flonase)
- antihistamine or corticosteroid eye drops
- oral decongestants (Zyrtec D, Allegra D)
- corticosteroid asthma inhalers
Identifying substances that you are allergic to is a critical part of allergy treatment. This way, you can avoid them in the future.
There are many different types of allergies, so ask your doctor about the best allergy tests for diagnosing your symptoms. Most often, allergists perform skin prick tests. These involve injecting tiny amounts of several common allergens to see if they provoke a reaction. Skin prick tests are different from allergy shots.
Because your immune system is constantly changing, it is possible for your allergies to change over time.
In some cases, children may outgrow food allergies as they get older. In fact, it’s estimated that about
However, a 2016 research review showed that certain food allergies are usually lifelong, including allergies to ingredients like:
- tree nuts
Adults can also develop allergies later in life, including seasonal allergies or allergies to specific foods.
On the other hand, some people may develop a tolerance to certain allergens and could experience a reduction in the severity or frequency of reactions as they get older.
This may be due to age-related changes in immune function, which alters how your body responds to allergens. Alternatively, it could be caused by repeated exposure to an allergen over time.
If you find that you are getting sick frequently or are regularly experiencing symptoms like coughing, congestion, or difficulty breathing, you may want to talk with your doctor.
You should also consider consulting your doctor if you feel that your allergies are interfering with your daily life or if OTC medications are no longer able to help you manage your symptoms.
Your allergist can help you develop a plan tailored to your needs and evaluate which treatment method is right for you.
It won’t always be possible to completely get rid of your allergies, but you may be able to reduce your symptoms. There are also many steps you can take to reduce your likelihood of encountering allergens in your home. It will take a combination of different tactics to free your home of allergens.
You can also consider long-term immunotherapy treatments. In the meantime, talk with your doctor about medications that can help manage your symptoms.