How are allergies treated?

Although avoiding the allergen is an important treatment approach, it usually does not completely end the allergic reaction.

Medications such as antihistamines (e.g., Allegra®, Zyrtec®), decongestants (eg, Sudafed®, Contact®), or a combination of over-the-counter and prescription medications, are used to treat allergy symptoms. Nasal sprays such as topical nasal steroids (e.g., Flonase®, Nasonex®), cromolyn sodium, and topical nasal antihistamines also can be used to treat allergy symptoms.

Asthma medications, which reduce allergy symptoms, include:

  • Inhaled bronchodilators.
  • Inhaled steroids.
  • Oral bronchodilators (theophylline).
  • Oral anti-leukotrienes (Singulair [montelukast], zafirlukast [Accolate®] and zyflo [Zileuton®]).
  • Injected medications, including an antibody such as omalizumab (Xolair®).

Immunotherapy (“allergy shot therapy”) or allergy oral immunotherapy is recommended for symptoms that are not adequately controlled with a combination of avoidance measures and regular medication use. This shot has been shown to be effective in properly selected patients with allergic rhinitis and/or allergic asthma.

Another treatment option is saline irrigation using a sinus rinse kit. These rinse kits (e.g., Neilmed®) are sold over-the-counter or can be made at home. To make your own rinse, combine one-half teaspoon non-iodinated salt with one-half teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of distilled or boiled water. This mixture rinses out allergens and decreases the amount of inflammation (edema) they cause.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/07/2016.


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