Allergies are a fact of life. More than 50 million Americans experience allergies each year, and they’re the sixth leading cause of chronic illness.
People are allergic to all kinds of things, from medicines to certain foods, pets, pollen, latex and different allergy types affect different body areas. Some allergies are just extremely uncomfortable, but others can send you straight to the emergency room. With the crazy amount of pollen we’ve had in New Jersey lets talk about respiratory allergies.
Respiratory allergies have many of the same symptoms as respiratory infections like sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and postnasal drip. So how do you know whether it’s an infection or an allergy?
- If you always get symptoms in the spring or the fall, you’re probably allergic to some kind of pollen.
- If you always get symptoms in certain settings, you’re probably allergic to animal dander, mold, or dust mites.
There are prescription and over-the-counter medicines that can help relieve these symptoms. The most common types are:
- Antihistamines, which block a chemical that causes allergy symptoms
- Decongestants, which relieve stuffiness
- Corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation
Some medicines have to be taken daily throughout the allergy season to be effective. Others can be habit forming and shouldn’t be used for more than a few days in a row.
Talk to your doctor before you start taking any new allergy drugs, because they can also be dangerous. For instance, many decongestants should not be used by people with certain heart conditions.
Of course, the best way to avoid discomfort is to avoid the allergen itself. That can be easier said than done, but the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has some useful tips.
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