Over the counter medicines such as antihistamines, corticosteroids or decongestants are helpful in only treating the symptoms of allergic disease, not preventing the onset of allergies.
Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) is the process by which increasing doses of an allergen are injected subcutaneously (under the skin) over time as a treatment to prevent allergic symptoms. Immunotherapy involves a series of injections (shots) containing a mixture of allergens to which a person is sensitive, regularly for several months or even years. The first shots start with very tiny amounts of the allergens and eventually dosages increase over time. This process is also called desensitization or allergen immunotherapy. Medications help in reducing symptoms but immunotherapy is the only available treatment for reducing sensitivity to allergens.
Rush immunotherapy (RIT), also known as accelerated immunotherapy, is done very quickly, with shots given every few hours, instead of every few days or weeks, to increase the tolerance to an allergen (Nelson, 1995). Rush immunotherapy can be done quickly if someone gets a life-threatening allergy, for instance caused by a bee sting or other insect venom. Recently it was found that patients receiving both Omalizumab (monoclonal antibody) and RIT had fewer adverse symptoms than those receiving either treatment alone. Pretreatment of Omalizumab enhances both the efficacy and the safety of Rush immunotherapy (Casale et al. 2006).
Homeopathic remedies: Homeopathic remedies and natural
products such as Lycopodium, Pulsatilla and sulfur can be useful
in reducing allergic response (Colin,
2006). Intestinal commensal bacterial flora
or eating the right kind of yoghurt (probiotic bacteria) can also
be used for inhibiting the development of allergic responses to
food related allergens (Bashir
et al., 2004) (See CSA's Bugs
in Our Guts for more information). Studies in mice have shown
that induction of allergen-specific IgE and symptoms is associated
with functional TLR4 receptors of lipopolysaccharides (toll
like receptors-4). Strains of mice treated with TLR4 showed reduced
symptoms than untreated strains. Mice lacking TLR-4 produce higher
amounts of IgE and histamine levels. Mice react to TLR-4 by producing
liposaccharides and show increased levels of IL-13 and allergy
specific IFNy and thus allergy reduction.
Avoiding exposure: Because prevention is better than cure, personal hygiene may be the best alternative for reducing allergies. Persons prone to respiratory symptoms should avoid exposure to allergens; they should cover their noses or wear pollen/dust masks while going outside or exercising during pollen season. Air filters in furnaces and air conditioners should be changed monthly. Air purifiers and cleaning of air vents and ducts can help in cleansing the air. Wooden or cement floors are preferable to carpets, while frequent washing of bed sheets, covers, and other linens also reduces allergens. Avoid exposure to stored clothes in boxes or wardrobes for months after removal from storage and wash them before wearing. The simple way to avoid pet related allergy is to avoid the pets; pet lovers can keep a hypoallergenic pet. Researchers have developed a cat which lacks the allergen (Fel D 1) so that people allergic to cats can own a hypoallergenic pet (http://www.allerca.com/).
Special thanks to Deborah
Whitman for her invaluable help with this Discovery Guide
List of Visuals
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