Allergy

Updated 11 May 2016

Treating allergies

There is no cure for allergies. The best way to control or treat any allergy is to avoid the triggering substance.

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There is no cure for allergies. The best way to control or treat any allergy is to avoid the triggering substance.

Medication

The most common treatments are:

  • New antihistamines and anti-IgE (omalizumab or Xolair) block the release of histamine by the body’s mast cells in body tissue (histamine causes the allergic reaction).
  • Decongestants shrink swollen nasal tissues, thereby relieving congestion. These drugs are sometimes combined with an antihistamine and control nasal symptoms effectively. They should not be used continuously for more than a week as this may worsen the nasal mucosal swelling.
  • Corticosteroids – controlling inflammation and stopping allergic reactions. At the same time, these anti-inflammatory substances reduce nasal swelling and mucous secretions. 
  • Topical creams or skin ointments – for eczema 
  • Antibiotics – may also be necessary to treat complications such as the ear and sinus infections that are common in children with allergies.

There is a wide range of medicines for treating asthma. Usually more than one type of medication is prescribed, firstly to relieve the symptoms during an acute attack and secondly to control the symptoms over time.

If you have had a severe allergic reaction in the past, you should always carry a kit to treat anaphylactic shock and give yourself an injection from the kit when necessary. It is important to get medical treatment immediately, but while waiting for medical help to arrive, lie down with your legs raised above chest level to increase the blood flow to your heart and brain.

Other treatments

No nutritional or herbal treatments or vitamin or mineral supplements has been proven to be successful in treating allergies. If you are allergic to pollen, you should be especially careful of herbal remedies, as they may contain the very substances that activate your allergic symptoms!

Unless you are allergic to some food substance, you do not have to change your diet to prevent an allergic reaction. As an allergy is not caused by a nutritional deficiency but is a reaction of the immune system, taking vitamin and mineral supplements will not help to prevent an allergic reaction. 

Read more: 

Causes of allergies 

Preventing allergic reactions 

Diagnosing allergies 

Revised and reviewed by Professor Sharon Kling, Allergologist, Clinical Head of the Paediatric Allergy Clinic at Tygerberg Hospital and Associate Professor of Paediatrics, University of Stellenbosch. March 2015.

 

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Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies. obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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