- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Treat Hay Fever Without Allergy Shots
Stop Hay Fever Without Shots
When Spring rolls around, many people develop allergic reactions to all of the pollen and other stuff in the air. Often called hay fever, these springtime allergies can produce runny nose, itching, scratchy throat, stuffed nose, and cartoonish sneezing episodes. When allergies get really bad, people start thinking about getting medical treatment, but do you really need allergy shots?
How Allergies Work
The biggest problem many people have in treating their hayfever is that they do not understand how allergies work. Allergies are an overreaction by the body's immune system to otherwise harmless pollutants. In this case, pollen and other airborne particles are the culprit. The body produces histamines to neutralize and remove the perceived threat. These histamines are what cause all of the allergy symptoms you have. The system actually works very well. All of that mucus you are eliminating from your body by blowing your nose and coughing is taking those pollutants outside of your body. The only problem is that it really isn't necessary since they are harmless.
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All allergy treatments work by suppressing the body's production of histamines. With less histamines in the body, you have less symptoms.
Over the Counter Antihistamines
Regular non-prescription antihistamines work by blocking, or reducing, the histamines naturally produced by the body. However, there is a catch. Antihistamines do NOT eliminate or reduce histamines that have already been produced by the body. These histamines are already present in the nose and throat and continue to produce allergy symptoms ever after you take an antihistamine.
What many people do wrong when treating their hay fever at home is that they wait for symptoms to develop before taking allergy medications. This means that their nose and throat are already filled with antihistamines by the time they take the Benedryl, or Allegra, or whatever. So they continue to sneeze and have a runny nose and itchy throat. This makes them think that their allergy medicine isn't working, or that over the counter medicines aren't strong enough.
Conversely, allergy shots from the doctor stay in the body and continue to work for a week or more at a time. So, the body never produces the histamines that cause all of the trouble to begin with. Patients then assume that the shots were stronger and more effective when it may just be that they were better applied.
How To Treat Hay Fever Without Shots
The key to beating hay fever without having to go to an allergist and load up on shots is to keep a steady stream of antihistamine in your body. When you already have symptoms, it is too late. Instead, find a 24-hour allergy medicine that works for you. I find that different ones work better in different years, as crazy as that sounds.
There are three major 24-hour allergy medicines, Allegra, Zyrtec, and Claritan. The brand-name versions of these medicines tend to be very expensive. Buy the generic store-brand instead. They have the same active ingredients, so they should be equally effective in fighting allergy symptoms. Until you know which one is going to work best for you, buy the smallest quantity.
Personally, I would start with Allegra, but if that hasn't worked for you in the past, one of the others might be your first choice. To avoid any sleep issues, I take my all-day allergy pills first thing in the morning when I wake up. The key is to take it right away, as close to 24-hours as possible. That way, there is always antihistamine floating around in your blood and blocking you from developing more symptoms.
On that first day, if you already have symptoms, don't expect miracles. The histamines that are already in your body are still doing damage. After several hours, you should fell better, although maybe not all the way to "cured." If you don't feel any better, consider trying a different medicine the following morning. Don't double-up as this may dry you out and cause a rebound effect.
If you need extra help with your allergies in order to fall asleep, consider taking a Benedryl a half-hour before bedtime. Benedryl is one of the strongest allergy medicines there is, but it only lasts 4 hours and it makes most people sleepy. The extra boost should help get you through those first few nights.
After a few days of taking your 24-hour allergy medicines on schedule, you should experience significant relief from hay fever. If not, try another one of the three types. If none of them work, even after not missing a single hour in a three day period, then it might be time to check with an allergist after all.