Allergies Suck! How to Handle Allergy Season

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Stop Allergies Before They Start

Rather than just treating your symptoms with a medicine cabinet full of drugs, your best strategy is to try to prevent symptoms in the first place.

Avoid Your Triggers

If you're allergic to indoor allergens, like dust mites or pet dander, try encasing pillows and mattresses and keeping pets out of bedrooms. And if you reduce the number of hours your dog stays inside, allergen levels will drop considerably. To avoid outdoor triggers, use HEPA air purifiers to remove allergens from your home.

Consider Getting Shots

Allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, are not that popular because, well, who wants to go have frequent needle jabs? But compare that to months of suffering from symptoms year after year. "Immunotherapy can give you symptom control for years without needing any medications," says Dr. Cox. Here's how it works: Once or twice a week you get a shot that contains tiny amounts of the substance you're allergic to. Your doctor will increase the amount over time, as you slowly build up resistance to it. After several months, you cut back to three times a month, then twice a month, then once a month. After three to five years, most people can stop the shots altogether. Allergy shots have been very successful in treating allergies to pollens and dust mites, but a bit less effective against mold, cats, and dogs, says Dr. Dykewicz.

Try the New Drops

Called sublingual immunotherapy, this new preventive treatment could have mass appeal once it gets FDA approval (it's off-label now). SLIT involves putting drops under your tongue once a day -- no needles! Plus, you take the drops at home, so it's more convenient than going to your doctor for shots. About 6 percent of allergy doctors now offer it. The drops aren't covered by insurance and can cost about $300 for a three-month supply, but you'll save money on office co-pays. The FDA is reviewing sublingual tablets, says Dr. Cox, which would work like the drops but probably be covered by insurance once approved.

Continued on page 4:  How to Get Diagnosed


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