THURSDAY, May 11, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- If you suffer from allergies, you know how bothersome and uncomfortable the sneezing and itchy eyes can be. These symptoms are more than irritating — they impact day-to-day activities like work, school, sports, sleeping and even eating.
Not only that, but allergies can also cause more serious health problems such as asthma and even anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Allergies are a common health condition affecting almost one-third of adults in the United States and just over one-quarter of children under 17, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But there is relief at hand: Here’s what you need to know about the most common allergy medicines, the type of allergies they treat, how they work and common side effects.
This type of allergy medicine is very effective in relieving allergy symptoms.
Mayo Clinic explains this drug type works by blocking histamine, “a symptom-causing chemical released by your immune system during an allergic reaction.”
Antihistamines are available as an over-the-counter medication or as a prescription allergy medicine, and they are sold in oral form, as a nasal spray or as eyedrops.
This allergy medicine treats symptoms of indoor and seasonal allergies.
Common side effects of antihistamines include drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, blurred or double vision, mucous thickening and low blood pressure.
Common antihistamines include:
Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)
Doxylamine (Vicks NyQuil, Tylenol Cold and Cough Nighttime)
Leukotriene modifiers prevent or lessen the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and allergic asthma.
The Cleveland Clinic explains that leukotrienes are chemicals released in the body when you come in contact with an allergen. This causes symptoms like a runny nose and coughing. Leukotriene inhibitors block the effects leukotrienes have on the body or “stop your body from producing them.”
Leukotriene inhibitors can cause side effects such as cold or flu symptoms, headache, diarrhea, fatigue and itchy skin or rash. More serious side effects like depression, thoughts of suicide, hives, trouble breathing, vomiting and yellowing of the skin or eyes can occur. You should seek medical treatment in these cases.
Common leukotriene inhibitors include:
Corticosteroids treat mild to severe allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation caused by your body’s reaction to an allergen. Corticosteroids are available in several forms including pills and liquids, nasal sprays, inhalers, creams and eyedrops.
They treat allergic inflammation caused by indoor and seasonal allergens as well as insect stings. Severe allergic reactions are treated with oral corticosteroids, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Side effects vary depending on the medication form, but can include increased blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, nosebleeds, mouth and throat irritation, and skin irritation.
Common corticosteroids by form include:
Pills and liquids
Mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler)
Betamethasone (Dermabet, Diprolene)
Desonide (Desonate, DesOwen)
Fluorometholone (Flarex, FML)
Loteprednol (Alrex, Lotemax)
Immunotherapy works by modifying the immune system and its reaction to allergens. It’s not used for immediate allergy symptom relief but is a long-term allergy treatment. Immunotherapy treatments (or allergy shots) are prescription medicines.
"Allergy shots can be helpful for patients with seasonal and year-round allergies," Miranda Curtiss, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, said in a recent article. "However, these are a long-term investment that require planning to continue therapy for three to five years for maximal benefit. Asthmatics who want to start allergy shots need to have their asthma under good control first before starting shots."
With allergy shots, you are exposed to an allergen over and over until your immune system becomes desensitized and no longer reacts to the allergen, the Mayo Clinic says. This type of treatment is commonly given as allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy, or SCIT), but is also available in a form given under the tongue (sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT).
With SCIT, injections are given in your doctor’s office where they can monitor for adverse reactions. Treatment starts with the “build-up phase,” which is once or twice a week, and decreases to a maintenance dose which is once every two to four weeks.
Sublingual immunotherapy treatment, like subcutaneous immunotherapy, also exposes you to allergens over a period of time, with the goal of building immunity to the allergen. SLIT tablets are available by prescription and taken daily.
Immunotherapy is used to treat seasonal and indoor allergies, as well as insect stings.
Side effects include watery eyes, sneezing, mild asthma symptoms, a rash at the injection site, tiredness and headaches. In rare cases, life-threatening reactions such as throat swelling and difficulty breathing can occur.
Regardless of the type of allergy or your symptoms, there are options for relief. Reach out to your health care provider to learn more about which remedies are best for you.