Everything you Need to Know About Allergies (part 4): Treatment and Care

Over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, and allergy shots are commonly used for treating allergy symptoms. Treating allergies is based on your medical history, cause of allergy, and your allergy symptoms.

An elimination diet is one of the best ways to treat food allergies. For environmental allergies and drug allergies, identifying and avoiding the allergen helps avoid triggering the allergy symptoms in the first place. Many natural remedies for allergies provide significant symptom relief. 

Causes Based Treatment for Allergies

Allergies are caused when a person’s immune system becomes hypersensitive to certain substances. These substances are called allergens and can be anything from pollen, metal, drugs, bee venom, or dust mites.

Depending on the allergen, we can categorize them as food allergies, environmental allergies, and drug allergies. 

Treatment for Food Allergies

Most food-related allergy symptoms occur within an hour or two of ingestion. Common allergy triggers are eggs, milk, peanuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. However, allergies to spices such as cinnamon, seeds such as sesame and mustard seeds, raw fruits and vegetables are not so uncommon these days.

The Elimination Diet

The primary way to manage a food allergy is by an elimination diet.

There are two parts of the elimination diet:

  • The elimination (avoidance) phase: This is the first step wherein you eliminate all the suspicious food from your diet. Read the food labels before consuming any packaged food to be extra cautious of the suspicious allergen. Keep a food diary and jot down everything you eat. Foods to be avoided in an elimination diet are citrus, milk, eggs, gluten, shellfish, and soy.
  • The reintroduction (challenge) phase: This is the state where you slowly introduce the food that triggers the allergy. Do it one at a time. Make sure to note any symptoms that you get while adding these foods back. In case of any symptoms, seek help. Next time, try with a smaller amount and keep checking till your body is able to take it.

The two main types of elimination diets are simple modified diets and moderate-intensity diets.

However, despite your best efforts if you get a food allergy,  your treatment will be given based on your allergic reaction.

  • Minor allergic reactions can be easily treated with over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamine medicines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton), which can bring quick relief from itching and hives. 
  • Severe allergic reactions may be treated with an emergency injection of epinephrine. Many people prone to severe reactions are advised to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them.
  • Corticosteroids are given via IV for rapid reversal of the effect if it’s very bad. Oral corticosteroids are given for less severe reactions.
  • Corticosteroid ointments are given to be used for skin reactions.
  • Inhalers for wheezing or breathing difficulties such as albuterol (Proventil), or epinephrine (Primatene Mist) dilate the airway.
  • Vitamin C treatment for allergy: Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and a very strong antioxidant. It acts differently from antihistamine medications though. Instead of blocking the antihistamine receptors that other allergic drugs do, vitamin C reduces the amount of histamine production. Studies have supported that intravenous infusion of vitamin C to people with skin or respiratory allergy has brought relief (1), (2), (3).
  • Oral immunotherapy has been researched to treat food allergies. Here, you are exposed to small doses of the food you are allergic to. You are either made to eat it or place it under your tongue. Slowly the amount increases. This gives the body to adjust to the food and may prevent a reaction in the future. Also known as the de-sensitization theory or allergen immunotherapy or hypo-sensitization therapy,  goes with the idea to teach your body to encounter the source of your allergy without reacting to it in the future.

It sometimes takes weeks, months as long as 6-12 months. 

Alternative Treatments for Food Allergy

Studies on alternative food allergy treatment are limited. 

  • Acupuncture point injection therapy has been shown to be beneficial for the treatment of food allergy cause hives. The ancient Chinese practice of using small needles in meridian points throughout the body has been believed to be effective for many.
  • Homeopathic remedies have been quite effective in relieving allergic symptoms. Some of them are Lycopodium clavatum, Carbo vegetabilis,  Pulsatilla, Kali bichromiucum, etc. The latter is especially effective as a beer allergy treatment.
  • Ayurvedic remedies have become very popular recently for treating food allergies. A kitchari cleanse is used to scrub your digestive tract of any toxins. Avipattikar churna helps strengthen digestion and prevents excess heat and toxin production. Herbs such as Shatavari, licorice root help reduce long-standing inflammation of the digestive tract and soothe the liver. Amalaki helps rejuvenate the intestine.
  • Chinese herbal medicine has recently been gaining interest as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). A traditional Chinese medicine(TCM) named food allergy herbal formula-2 (FAHF-2) has been shown to be highly effective in providing long-term protection against common food allergies such as peanut allergy.
  • Another potential herbal medicinal therapy for food allergy is Kakkonto, a Japanese-Chinese herbal formula composed of seven medical plants.

Naturopathic Remedies for Food Allergies

  • Dietary changes: A low-fat, high-fiber diet may reduce allergic reactions.
  • Bioflavonoids: These are plant-based chemicals especially found in citrus fruits and black currants can help reduce allergic incidence. Also known as natural histamines, bioflavonoids are found as supplements as well (4).
  • Supplements: Vitamin A, C, E, flaxseed oil, and zinc supplements are believed to improve allergy symptoms (5), (6), (7).

Natural Home Remedies for Food Allergies

  • A cool shower or cool compress for swelling and hives
  • Apply calamine lotion
  • Apple cider vinegar with its natural antihistamine property can help fight many symptoms of food allergies.
  • Turmeric is highly effective to treat symptoms of milder forms of food allergies because of its anti-inflammatory benefits. This is due to its active component ‘curcumin’ which is a decongestant, natural antihistamine, antibacterial, and a natural remedy of bronchial asthma which can get triggered due to allergic reaction. Incorporate turmeric in your food as well drink turmeric milk every day.
  • Honey is the most effective home remedy for any kind of allergies including food allergies. It helps decrease the allergic impact on the body. Take 1 glass of warm water, ½ lemon juice, and 1 tsp of honey and drink it empty stomach first thing in the morning.
  • High consumption of probiotic food will help restore the natural balance of your gut bacteria. It will also strengthen your immune system.
  • Ginger can be very effective in treating gastrointestinal discomforts associated with food allergies.
  • Citrus fruits have immune-boosting properties that help prevent as well as treat food allergy symptoms. It can also help flush the toxin out of your body.
  • Green tea for treating stomach symptoms associated with food allergy.
  • Garlic contains a natural antihistamine called quercetin, which is very effective in treating food allergies. It also helps reduce symptoms and aid in quick recovery.
  • Stinging nettles can help treat skin rashes, nausea, and stomach pain of food allergy and help heal faster.
  • Castor oil can also improve the symptoms of food allergy.

Treatment for Environmental Allergies

The best way to treat environmental allergy is to avoid the allergen in case it is already diagnosed. This is mainly applicable in the case of allergies caused by chemical agents such as fragrance, latex, and perfume; metals such as copper, nickel, yellow gold, platinum, and stainless steel. 

Environmental allergies can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as cetirizine and levocetirizine.

  • Antihistamines (Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra)
  • Decongestant nasal sprays (Afrin)
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays (Rhinocort, Flonase)
  • Antihistamine or corticosteroid eye drop
  • Corticosteroid asthma inhalers
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs)
  • Oral decongestants that include Zyrtec D, Allegra D.

OTC antihistamines are more effective for treating seasonal environmental allergies and wouldn’t have to take long-term.

In case of severe allergic reactions, allergen immunotherapy, also called allergy shots are given.

Home Remedies for Environmental Allergies

  • Use an air filter. Air filters and purifiers are designed to remove allergens from getting inside. Home HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air) filters can be very effective in this regard. It can also help you get rid of dander, dust mites, and indoor mold that are mainly responsible for winter allergies.
  • Allergy proof your bed or use hypoallergenic bedding
  • Close your windows so that you reduce the number of environmental allergens entering your home
  • Keep pets if any out of the bedroom
  • Vacuum clean frequently which help reduce airborne allergens
  • Dehumidify with a good dehumidifier to suck that extra moisture that helps mold thrive in rainy seasons
  • If you are allergic to AC make sure you get your output vents, filter, and the ductwork below cleaned. Remove any standing water to prevent the growth of mites, bacteria, mildew, and mold.
  • Get rid of plants that may be harboring dust mites and mold spores
  • Avoid leaving stale food in the kitchen and curb cockroaches 
  • Use OTC saline nasal spray that is highly effective against environmental allergies especially dust mite allergy.
  • If chemicals irritate your nasal passage, you can make a natural cleaner with vinegar and baking soda.
  • To prevent summer allergies, avoid going out to avoid pollen count and high levels of smog. For spring allergy try wearing a mask to avoid inhaling pollen-laden air.
  • Adding essential oil of lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus oils can provide relief from nasal congestion and swollen eyes.
  • Insect bites such as bee sting and wasp bites should be cleaned with water mixed with baking soda to neutralize the venom. A metal key can be used to take the sting out and then apply calamine lotion.
  • Other remedies to treat itches and swelling from mosquito bites, or other environmental allergy is using crushed ice on the site, giving an oatmeal bath, rub cut onions, or smooth in some aloe vera gel on the affected area.
  • A natural remedy for sinusitis, wheezing, chest congestion is the use of Neti pot, a therapy that uses salt and water solution to flush your nasal passages.

Alternative Treatments for Environmental Allergy

  • Herbal treatment: Similar to food allergy treatment, herbal remedies such as butterbur, quercetin, and stinging nettle work for environmental allergies as well. In addition to that, bromelain, Phleum pratense also works well on the nose, eye, and throat allergies related to environmental pollutants. A few studies have also found an herbal tablet from India, Tinospora cordifolia, can reduce allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge.
  • Homeopathic treatment: Homeopathic medicines have been seen to be effective in treating environmental allergies. Some of them are the Arsenicum album, Natrum muriaticum, Apis mellifica, and Ferrum phosphoricum.
  • Ayurvedic treatment: Seasonal allergies can be relieved with Ayurveda. Some of the treatment includes the use of pungent and bitter herbs and spices such as basil, cumin, sage, turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. An easy way is to drink ginger lemon tea and hot honey water.

Naturopathic Remedies for Environmental Allergy

  • Cleanse your nose regularly
  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Take herbal remedies such as butterbur, stinging nettle leaf, rosemary, turmeric, and garlic. These are especially good for spring allergy relief.
  • Detox the body
  • Take probiotics
  • Drinking herbal teas made of milk thistle, red clover, stinging nettles, ginkgo is very popular as morning allergy remedies.

 Treatment for Drug Allergies

Common triggers of drug allergies are penicillin, antibiotics such as sulfa drugs, anticonvulsants, NSAIDs, and chemotherapy drugs.

The best way of treating drug allergies is to completely avoid drug allergen. The other treatments include:

  • Penicillin allergy treatment: Severe reactions to penicillin should be treated as an emergency. However milder reactions can be treated with antihistamines and oral or injected corticosteroids as per the reaction.
  • Aspirin allergy treatment: Aspirin sensitivity is usually treated with aspirin desensitization to make it tolerable. To maintain its effectiveness, aspirin desensitization treatment has to be done regularly.
  • Amoxicillin allergy treatment: The first step is to stop the medicine until the doctor sees you. If there are rashes and itching, Benadryl can help. Your doctor may advise you on steroid cream as well. In case you develop severe reactions, it’s an emergency.

Symptoms Based Allergy Treatment

Treatment for Respiratory Allergies

Respiratory allergies or allergic rhinitis symptoms are sneezing, nasal block or congestion, wheezing, coughing, cold, headache, sinusitis, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. 

Traditional symptomatic drugs: All these can be treated by intranasal corticosteroids, oral and topical antihistamines, decongestants, inhaled long-acting bronchodilators, cromones, intranasal anticholinergics, anti-IgE monoclonal antibodies, and leukotriene receptor antagonists.

Homeopathic medicine: Lycopodium, Pulsatilla, and Sulphur are the most frequently prescribed homeopathic medicine for the above-mentioned symptoms of respiratory allergy.

Treatment for Skin Allergies

The most common allergenic symptom on the skin is rash, itching, redness, and swelling.

Rashes and itching can be treated by over-the-counter products.

  • Ointments like calamine location 
  • Cold compress
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Antihistamines

Home remedies that are also seen to be effective for treating hives, itching, swelling are:

  • Oatmeal bath
  • Baking soda paste on the itchy area
  • Aloe Vera gel for atopic dermatitis
  • Ice Pack to reduce inflammation
  • Persimmon leaf extract
  • Konjac ceramide by mouth
  • Neem leaves boiled in water, filtered, cooled, and taken bath with
  • English marigold
  • Basil

Allergy Treatment Based on Body Region

  • Eye allergy such as swollen eyes, puffy eyes, red and watery eyes can be treated with oral antihistamines, decongestants, and mast cell stabilizers. In case of severe reactions, immunotherapy shots can be given.

Eye allergy home remedy includes applying a warm and cold compress to reduce the reaction, artificial tear drops to flush out the allergen, and tea bags.

  • Throat allergies such as sore throat allergies, pain, inflammation, swelling can be treated with salt water gargles, little honey to coat the throat, sipping on hot tea with lemon and honey, and lozenges. Over-the-counter antihistamines can also be used to alleviate allergy symptoms. Ayurvedic remedies for throat allergy are gargling with turmeric water, basil water, Tankana bhasma mixed in water and cardamom powder dissolved water.
  • Mouth allergy: there isn’t any specific medication to treat mouth allergy but antihistamines (mild reaction), epinephrine (severe reaction), and immunotherapy are the three ways to treat it. Allegra and Benadryl are very effective for scratchy throats. Same home remedies like throat allergy can benefit.

Age-Based Home Remedies 

For Treating Allergies in Babies

  • Avoid the known allergens
  • Keep them hydrated
  • Corn starch on the affected area on the skin after bathing to keep the area dry
  • Cold compress to provide relief from itchiness. 

For Treating Allergies in Children

  • Hot and cold compress
  • Saltwater gargle to relieve throat allergies
  • Carrot, beet, and cucumber juice help reduce allergic reactions and soothes existing allergies
  • Lemon and honey in 1 glass of lukewarm water in an empty stomach for its anti-allergic properties

Severity-Based Allergy Treatments

  • Severe allergies – Chronic or severe allergy treatments are immunotherapy or allergy shots, bronchodilators, and inhaled corticosteroids for treating allergic asthma and oral cromolyn for food allergies.
  • Mild allergies – Over the counter antihistamines are effective enough to control mild allergic reactions.
  • Moderate allergies – Moderate allergic reaction treatment includes hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion on the allergic site, cold compress to the area if it’s swollen, and antihistamines to reduce itching and swelling.

Holistic Allergy Remedies

Holistic treatment is a form of healing where the whole body, mind, spirit and emotions are considered together and healed. The primary goal of holistic medicine practitioners is to regain the proper life-balance. From conventional medicine to alternative therapies, everything is used to treat a patient.

They do so by:

  • Reducing allergen exposure
  • Natural medicines such as bioflavonoids, green tea, freeze-dried nettles, and pancreatic enzymes
  • Nasal rinse for nose allergies
  • Aromatherapy with peppermint and/or eucalyptus for decongestion
  • They may also use certain homeopathic and ayurvedic medicine to treat the symptoms

Nutritional Treatment for Allergies

Several researchers have stated that impaired gut barrier function leading to the leaky gut can be the cause behind the development of allergies especially food allergies and skin allergies.

  • Functional medicines through an alternative or holistic approach to treating the disease can be a valid treatment for allergies and leaky gut syndrome. The goal of functional medicine is to remove the cause not suppressing it.
  • The supplements that can help heal leaky gut are zinc, L-glutamine, collagen peptides, probiotics, fiber and butyrate, deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), curcumin, and berberine.
  • A few dietary changes can also help leaky gut syndrome such as increased fiber intake, decreased sugar intake, and decreased foods that cause inflammation such as dairy, red meat, and fried and processed foods.
  • Low cortisol levels result in adrenal fatigue to the onset of allergies. Supplements such as vitamin B-5,6 and B12, vitamin C, and magnesium can help strengthen your adrenals and reduce the episode of allergies. Many natural healing practitioners also prescribe licorice root, maca root, golden root, and Siberian ginseng to boost your adrenals.