Allergy symptoms can often be controlled fairly easily with over-the-counter medications. Sometimes, the underlying symptoms can be controlled through diet or vitamins. Vitamin C helps many people, as does acupuncture and other holistic means.
Allergies can also be treated on the offensive, such as by avoiding the substance that causes the allergy. For example, if you’re allergic to cats, you may just decide not to own one. Problem solved!
But, when is it time to break down and finally see a professional?
1.) You have no idea what is causing your allergies
If you’re experiencing sudden allergy attacks with seemingly no cause, it’s probably a good time to see your allergist. The doctor will be able to perform a test for different irritants so you’ll know what your body is reacting to. It could be one irritant, or a combination of things. Keep in mind that you may be asked to avoid taking any allergy medication for a day or two before the test in order to ensure more accurate results.
2.) You’re taking a lot of OTC medication
Over the counter allergy medicine is meant to be a temporary, occasional solution. If you visit grandma with her 14 cats, you’ll probably want to pack some Zyrtec. But if you’re taking it every day – or you’re taking too much of it – it’s not healthy. Common side effects from antihistamines range from dry mouth to sleepiness or dizziness. In extreme cases, overuse can lead to kidney damage.
3.) Difficulty breathing
A runny nose is one thing, but a swollen throat can be life threatening. If you’re experiencing extreme hives or shortness of breath along with your allergy symptoms, don’t take any chances with drugstore treatments. Anaphylactic shock is life-threatening. A Benadryl could stave off symptoms long enough to get to the hospital, but this should never be treated at home.
4.) It’s interfering with your quality of life
Are there things you can’t do and places you can’t go due to allergies? Do you have an excessive amount of down time during the day while waiting for allergy medication to kick in? Do you avoid going to parties or events because you fear an attack? Get thee to an allergist, and start enjoying life again!
The treatment you receive from the allergist can range from allergy shots to a non-drowsy prescription medication. The allergist may give you tips for controlling allergens around the home, such as keeping pets out of the bedroom or putting your pillows in the dryer once a week.
After being tested, you may also choose to pursue alternative treatments, such as acupuncture or naturopathic and holistic remedies. At that point, at least you’ll know what you’re allergic to and exactly how severe it is. And knowing more about your body is never a bad thing.
Read more about the tests and treatment for allergies in our Patient Guide.