WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Allergies are an immune system reaction to a substance called an allergen. Your immune system sees the allergen as harmful and attacks it.
- Epinephrine: This is a hormone that is used to slow a serious allergic reaction. Your primary healthcare provider can show you how to give this shot. If you have had a serious allergic reaction before, you may want to carry epinephrine with you at all times.
- Antihistamines: These help decrease itching, sneezing, and swelling. You may take them as a pill or use drops in your nose or eyes.
- Decongestants: These help your nose feel less stuffy.
- Topical treatments: You may be given medicine to put directly on your skin to help decrease itching or swelling. Cold cloths or ice may also help your skin feel better. You also may be given nasal sprays or eye drops.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Manage your allergies:
- Use nasal rinses: Caregivers may suggest that you rinse your nasal passages with a saline solution. Daily rinsing may help clear your nose of allergens.
- Do not smoke: Your allergy symptoms may decrease if you are not around smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask your primary healthcare provider for information about how to stop if you need help quitting.
- Carry medical alert identification: You may want to wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have an allergy. Ask your primary healthcare provider where to get medical alert identification.
- Seasonal allergies: Do not go outside when pollen counts are high. Your symptoms may be better if you go outside only in the morning or evening. Use your air conditioner, and change air filters often.
- Dust, fur, or mold allergies: Dust and vacuum your home often. You may want to wear a mask when you vacuum. Keep pets in certain rooms, and bathe them often. Use a dehumidifier (machine that decreases moisture) to help prevent mold.
- Latex allergies: Do not use products with latex in them. Use nonlatex gloves if you work in healthcare or in food preparation. Always tell healthcare providers about a latex allergy.
- Insect stings: Stay away from areas or activities that increase your risk for being stung. These include trash cans, gardening, and picnics. Do not wear bright clothing or strong scents when you will be outside.
Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or allergist as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits. When you have an allergic reaction, write down everything you were exposed to in the 2 hours before the reaction. Take that information to your next visit.
Contact your primary healthcare provider or allergist if:
- You have tingling in your hands or feet.
- Your skin is red or flushed.
- You have stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have trouble swallowing, or your throat or tongue is swollen.
- You are wheezing or have trouble breathing.
- You feel dizzy or faint.
- You have chest pain or your heart is fluttering.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.