About Allergies

Dealing with Allergies

The first step in dealing with an allergy is to try and avoid the allergen, read our guides to how to deal with an allergy.

Avoidance

The first measure to take is avoidance of the allergen in question (after diagnosis, of course!). This is not always easy because of psychological associations (e.g. separating a child from a favourite pet) or sometimes even impossible (e.g. avoiding airborne pollen).

However, it should be possible to reduce the quantity of allergens. (e.g. house dust) or even get rid of them (e.g. contact allergens).

Antihistamines1

Zirtek Products

There are many anti-allergy medicines, far too many to detail, so instead of listing everything here you will find details of the most common.

Antihistamines are mainly used in the case of allergic rhinitis and in all allergic skin disorders but are also useful for dust mite allergy and pet allergy. Older antihistamines had the drawback of making the sufferer drowsy which the newer ones (2nd generation antihistamines) are less likely to do. Today antihistamines are generally considered the first-line treatment for allergy symptoms and are available through your pharmacy. Please speak to your healthcare provider for the right product for you.

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Education and Self Management

Knowing the cause and the origin of the allergic reaction is a great step towards avoiding the allergen and if necessary finding the right treatment. Support groups offer help on various allergy topics. This website contains a wealth of information on how to avoid the allergen and to minimise the reaction.

There are other associations who specialise in asthma and eczema and your local pharmacy is also a good source of information.

Allergy Avoidance

Eliminate as much as possible all the allergens you can from your environment, principally domestic animals (dogs, cats) and house-dust mites. Some practical suggestions for minimising / avoiding allergen exposure in the home are as follows 2, 3:

  • Use tested allergy-proof covers on mattresses, duvets and pillows.
  • Consider replacing carpets with hard floors.
  • Regularly wipe surfaces with a damp, clean cloth – avoid dry dusting, as this can spread dust into the air.
  • Clean cushions, soft toys, curtains and upholstered furniture regularly, either by washing (at a high temperature) or vacuuming.

If you are allergic to mould, you may consider:

  • Removing any indoor pot plants from your home
  • Not drying clothes indoors, storing clothes in damp cupboards or packing clothes too tightly in wardrobes
  • Dealing with any damp and condensation in your home
  • Avoiding damp buildings, damp woods and rotten leaves, cut grass and compost heaps

Avoid as much as possible allergens you cannot eliminate from your environment, notably airborne pollens.

Find out when pollen is most likely to be in the air (“pollen season”) and stay indoors when it’s high if possible.

Avoid precipitating factors, i.e. exposure to tobacco smoke and other sources of air pollution.

Correctly using medication

Using your medication correctly is essential to the management of allergic conditions. Always read the patient information leaflet and keep the pack which will also have directions printed on it. Information regarding medicines is always available from your pharmacist or GP if you are in any doubt.

Handling Allergic Reactions

Although they can be minimised, allergic reactions cannot be totally excluded. However, through correct management their duration and effect can be largely controlled.4

What to Do

The action you need to take will vary depending upon the severity of the allergic reaction. If you are suffering a mild allergic reaction such as sneezing, watery eyes or itchy skin etc. it is likely that using your usual antihistamine or prescribed medication will help and this may be all you need to do. Remember it will take time to become effective so it is advisable to take your medication at the early onset and remove any allergens if possible.

If however, the symptoms are affecting breathing with swelling in the throat or tongue then this could be a severe allergic reaction and urgent medical help will be required.

References
  1. BMA; Title: Understanding allergies; Publication year:2006;Publisher: family doctor Publication; author: Dr Joanne Clough; Page 106
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/prevention/
  1. BMA; Title: Understanding allergies; Publication year:2006;Publisher: family doctor Publication; author: Dr Joanne Clough; Page 84.
  2. BMA; Understanding allergies. Publication year 2013, Publisher Family Doctor Publications; author Dr Joanne Clough, Page 121