According to an allergy expert at Baylor College of Medicine, the first line of treatment for allergy symptoms is avoidance.
“It’s difficult, but it’s doable to find out what you’re allergic to and to avoid it,” said Dr. Adrian Casillas, associate professor of medicine.
During the fall, ragweed pollen is one of the strongest allergens that can cause mild to severe allergy symptoms as well as asthma exacerbations, said Casillas.
If avoidance is not possible, he suggests trying over-the-counter antihistamines. Allergy shots are an option for those who find no other relief. These start as weekly shots then slowly move to monthly shots and become more spread out over time. Most people only need allergy shots for three to five years.
For those suffering allergy symptoms due to mold, it can be extremely difficult to avoid because mold spores are everywhere. Casillas emphasizes that these allergies still need to be addressed.
Casillas notes that although avoidance is important, it is not always possible. In these cases, desensitization, or allergy shots, may be the best option.
This treatment can be life-saving for those who are allergic to insect stings, such as those from bees, wasps and fire ants. These types of stings can be deadly, and it would be beneficial to seek the attention of an allergist. Severe reactions to stings can include respiratory distress, low blood pressure, shock and even death.
“People allergic to stinging insects still die every year,” said Casillas.
Casillas recommends getting tested to see if you may be a good candidate for desensitization treatment, which involves injecting a very dilute amount of the specific substance that causes the allergic reaction into the body. Slowly, the dose of the substance is increased to help your body tolerate it and the immune system response is protective rather than harmful.
Those who suspect they have allergies and have not benefitted from over-the-counter antihistamines should talk to their doctor about seeing an allergist.