Most allergies are mild and need minimal treatment to clear up. They’re usually seen off within a few hours or days. It’s rare that they cause significant problems or a threat to your health.
Hay fever and animal allergies are the most common type of mild allergies, where an immune response is provoked when you come into contact with pollen or animal dander, releasing a substance called histamine. It gives a specific set of symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, watery or itchy eyes or an itchy skin rash.
It’s important to determine whether you have a true allergy that prompts an immune response, and many over-the-counter treatments aim to dampen down the histamine release to relieve symptoms. If you have a food intolerance or sensitivity, or you have a chemical irritation to a dusty environment rather than a true allergy, these medications won’t help your symptoms. Let’s talk you through the options.
There are two approaches to relieving mild allergy symptoms, prevention and treatment.
Preventing allergen contact: avoiding an allergen as much as possible is certainly going to help. So when the pollen count is high, stay indoors with windows shut and avoid grassy areas. Protecting yourself with sunglasses and a hat or cap can also reduce hay fever reactions, and applying Vaseline around the nose and eyes can trap pollen before it gets to you.
If animal dander is a trigger, take steps to minimise contact with pets. But sometimes avoidance isn’t possible, so you could take an antihistamine ahead of time if you know you are going to be exposed to an allergen that sets you off.
Where food allergies are concerned, it makes sense to be alert for obvious and hidden ingredients when you’re buying food in shops and restaurants, so always check the label or ask staff.
Treatment: once exposed Antihistamines reduce the immune response to allergens. They can be taken as tablets, capsules, creams, liquids, eye drops or nasal sprays, depending on which part of your body is affected by your allergy. Steroid creams can be used to reduce inflammation and irritation on the skin and decongestants can be used short-term for a blocked nose.
The pharmacy can help guide you with antihistamine tablets, creams, liquids, eye drops and nasal sprays. They sell mild steroid creams and decongestants, however not all of these may be suitable or applicable. Speak to your pharmacist to find out which treatment would be best for you.
If you or your child has experienced a moderate or severe allergic reaction for the first time, go and see your doctor. If you’ve tried over-the-counter treatment and and your allergy is still bothersome, you should book an appointment with your doctor to be reassessed, and they may prescribe a stronger antihistamine or stronger steroid cream.
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