Allergies are common, particularly in children. Some allergies tend to disappear as a person ages, but many are lifelong.
In the United States, allergies are the sixth leading reason for chronic illness, with more than 50 million people experiencing various allergies each year.
Symptoms of allergies may interfere with a person’s daily tasks and reduce their quality of life.
In this article, we examine whether people can get rid of allergies. We also look at prevention strategies and possible ways to manage allergies.
People can treat their allergy symptoms with medications and take steps to reduce their exposure to the allergen causing the reaction.
A doctor may recommend immunotherapy if:
- medications are not controlling allergy symptoms
- a person is unable to avoid allergens
- allergy medicines are interacting with a person’s other medications
- a patient does not like taking medications
Some people no longer have significant allergic reactions to allergens following years of immunotherapy. Others may require ongoing immunotherapy to manage their symptoms.
Immunotherapy is available as allergy shots (SCIT- subcutaneous immunotherapy) or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is also available for peanut allergies.
Allergy shots involve having exposure to increasing doses of an allergen by injection over several years. Over this time a person becomes less sensitive to the allergen and reacts to it less severely.
Allergy shots help control symptoms of allergies to:
- dust mites
- pet dander
- other stinging insects
SLIT involves small doses of an allergen that a person takes in tablet or drop form under the tongue to improve tolerance to an allergen and reduce symptoms. It is commercially available for allergies to dust mites, grass pollen, and ragweed.
Peanut allergen powder (Palforzia) is currently the only OIT with approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Palforzia may
Some people may outgrow allergies, especially allergies developed during early childhood. Whether someone’s allergy will disappear as they get older depends on what they are allergic to and the severity of the allergy.
Several studies suggest some food allergies may go away.
Around 85% of children outgrow allergies to:
However, only 15–20% of children may eventually tolerate allergies to:
- tree nuts
One study also indicates that most children with an allergy to insect stings may not have allergic reactions into adulthood.
Some people report that other allergies, such as pollen and pet dander allergies, become less severe as they age.
Although most allergies begin in childhood, they can develop at any time of life. Adults may also develop an allergy to something that did not previously affect them.
Allergies occur when the immune system mistakes a harmless substance, such as pollen, for an invader.
The immune system overreacts to the substance, which is also known as an allergen, by producing antibodies. The antibodies then travel to cells that release the chemical histamine when triggered, which causes an allergic reaction.
The process in the body is complex, and it results in the allergy symptoms a person experiences as allergies.
People with allergies experience many nasal passage, lung, and skin symptoms. Treatments for allergy symptoms include:
- loratadine (Claritin)
- cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- fexofenadine (Allegra)
- levocetirizine (Xyzal)
Antihistamines can help alleviate allergy symptoms, such as:
- itchy, watery eyes
- runny or stuffy nose
Antihistamines may also prevent these symptoms from occurring if people take them before coming into contact with an allergen.
Most oral antihistamines are now available over the counter (OTC). Nasal antihistamine sprays are available by prescription.
Steroid nasal sprays, also known as nasal corticosteroids, are nose sprays that
Examples of OTC nasal corticosteroids include:
- fluticasone nasal (Flonase)
- triamcinolone nasal (Nasacort Allergy 24HR)
- budesonide nasal (Rhinocort Allergy)
Nasal corticosteroids relieve symptoms such as:
- runny nose
- stuffy nose
- itchy, watery eyes
Doctors can also prescribe other corticosteroid nasal sprays, such as beclometasone (Beconase).
Decongestants are medications that provide short-term relief from a stuffy nose. They reduce inflammation in the nose’s blood vessels, which helps the airways open and relieve congestion.
Common OTC oral decongestants include oxymetazoline nasal (Vicks Sinex) and phenylephrine (Sudafed PE). Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) may be available behind the pharmacy counter or by prescription.
Mast cell stabilizers
This prevents allergy symptoms from occurring, such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes.
A doctor may prescribe an oral corticosteroid, such as prednisone, for severe allergy symptoms. Oral corticosteroids reduce inflammation and prevent severe allergic reactions.
A doctor will monitor a person taking oral corticosteroids because the medication may cause severe side effects.
Topical corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone, reduce skin inflammation and irritation. They are available OTC and with a prescription as creams, gels, and lotions.
Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. During anaphylaxis, a person may experience constriction of the airways and swelling of the throat. Blood vessels may also expand, which can cause a severe drop in blood pressure.
Doctors prescribe an injection-based medication called epinephrine to prevent anaphylaxis from becoming life-threatening in people with potentially severe allergies. Epinephrine is more commonly known as adrenaline.
Epinephrine improves breathing and contracts blood vessels to continue supplying the heart and brain with blood.
If a person thinks they are having an anaphylactic reaction, they should use their self-injectable epinephrine and call 911.
The most important step a person can take to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergen that triggers their allergy.
Avoiding allergens is not always practical or possible — for example, if a person is allergic to their pet’s dander or is a gardener with a pollen allergy. In these cases, a doctor can help prepare an allergy management plan to reduce allergen contact and manage symptoms with medicines.
If someone is unclear on the cause of an allergy, they may find it helpful to keep a diary. Keeping track of their whereabouts, actions, and diet can help a person identify what triggers or worsens their symptoms.
A person should consult their doctor or an allergist if they experience persistent allergy symptoms that do not ease with OTC treatments or that interfere with carrying out their daily tasks.
An allergist is a doctor that specializes in treating allergies.
If someone experiences symptoms of anaphylaxis, they should inject themselves with epinephrine and immediately call 911.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- difficulty breathing, such as fast or shallow breath
- rapid heartbeat
- anxiety or confusion
- low blood pressure
- feeling lightheaded or faint
- losing consciousness
If a person has previously had a severe allergic reaction, they should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. These can let other people know how to help if they have a severe allergic reaction and cannot communicate.
There is currently no cure for allergies. However, there are OTC and prescription medications that may relieve symptoms.
Avoiding allergy triggers or reducing contact with them can help prevent allergic reactions. Over time, immunotherapy may reduce the severity of allergic reactions.
Some people may outgrow an allergy, or it may become less severe as a person ages.
If a person experiences a severe allergic reaction, they should get help from a healthcare professional immediately.