How is an allergic reaction treated?

There are a variety of treatments for allergic reactions, though none can cure the condition. Treatments include avoiding the triggers of an allergic reaction, drugs that reduce the severity of allergic symptoms, and drugs that change the way the immune system interprets certain triggers. Additionally, there are treatments, such as epinephrine, for severe allergic reactions.

Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe and can change in severity from one exposure to the next. Because allergic reactions can be so severe, it is important to decide on a treatment strategy with your health care provider and follow it to avoid complications.

Treatment of minor allergic reactions

Mild allergic reactions are very common and can often be treated with medications that relieve the associated symptoms including:

  • Allergen avoidance is the best treatment for allergies that can easily be avoided, such as shellfish or peanuts. Some environmental allergens, such as pollen, can be almost impossible to avoid.
  • Cromolyn sodium and other mast cell stabilizers can relieve inflammation in your lungs associated with allergies
  • Inhaled, nasal, oral, or topical corticosteroids (Pulmicort, Nasonex, prednisone, Alrex) can be used to decrease inflammation associated with allergies. Corticosteroids are most effective if used on a daily basis.
  • Leukotriene modifiers (Singulair) can help relieve nasal symptoms of allergies
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines (Benadryl) or prescription antihistamines (Clarinex) can counter some symptoms of allergies, including red eyes, itchiness, and runny nose
  • Over-the-counter decongestants (Sudafed) or prescription decongestants (Claritin-D) can relieve congestion associated with allergies

Treatment for moderate to severe allergic reactions

While some of the medications already listed can be used in cases of moderate and severe allergic reactions, other medications, ones that alter the immune system’s response, can be effective. Medications for moderate to severe allergic reactions include:

  • Epinephrine injection (EpiPen) can treat anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. This treatment is so effective that patients with known severe allergies often carry a mobile epinephrine injection kit with them at all times.
  • Immunotherapy consists of injections of an allergen given in a controlled setting over a long period of time and may help reduce the severity of subsequent allergic reactions

What are the potential complications of an allergic reaction?

Complications of allergic reactions are usually limited when treated properly, as allergic reactions are often short-lived. However, some complications do exist.

Complications of untreated and severe allergic reactions can be serious, even life threatening in some cases. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of allergic reactions include:

  • Airway infections
  • Anaphylaxis (anaphylactic shock)
  • Asthma
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Poor quality of life

References:

Allergic reactions. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000005.htm. Accessed May 23, 2011.

Tips to remember: Allergic reactions. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/whatisallergicreaction.stm. Accessed May 23, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

What is an allergic reaction?

An allergic reaction is an inflammatory process that is triggered by a foreign substance known as an allergen. Allergens are usually proteins and are often different from person to person. Common allergens include animal dander from cats or dogs, airborne molecules such as ragweed pollen, and various types of drugs such as penicillin and sulfa Read more about allergic reactionintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, and itchy skin or hives. Symptoms of a more severe allergic reaction include swelling of the mouth or throat, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, dizziness or unconsciousness, nausea, and diarrhea.... Read more about allergic reactionsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes an allergic reaction?

Your body’s immune system identifies substances that are harmful, such as bacteria, and then seeks to destroy the harmful substance. Commonly, your immune system will interpret some normal and typically not harmful substances, like peanuts, as foreign and dangerous. In these cases, the immune system can be activated on exposure to that substance, and the immune system’s response can be so strong that it can cause life-threatening side effects, such as difficulty breathing.... Read more about allergic reactioncauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Allergies and the Immune System