Allergies cure?
February 20, 2011 6:05 PM   Subscribe

What are the chances that I could conquer my seasonal allergies if I threw everything modern medicine has at them?

I'll put the strong caveat that I know ever case is different, I will see a doctor if needed, but I want to hear from people who conquered (or did not conquer) their seasonal allergies.

I currently live in California where I suffer from almost no allergies, but when I lived in DC and NYC they were constant. 2 claritans plus sudafed helped, but I still suffered from, at times, back to back sinus infections that often developed into tonsilitis. My student health insurance didn't cover allergies so other than antibiotics, I was left to self medicate (I also used a neti pot, which helped). My allergies seriously affected my quality of life. Now I'm wondering, if I were to move back, what are the chances an allergist could help? And how much relief might I be able to expect? Just how good is modern medicine nowadays when it comes to allergies?

Anecdotes very welcome. I obviously won't know until I try, but short of moving back to somewhere that wreaks havoc on my allergies and then going to an allergist, I have no way of predicting how much an allergist might be able to help me.
posted by whoaali to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've been doing allergy shots for about 8 months now and I think I see a difference. It's hard to say for sure until allergy season really gets going again, but my indoor (dust mites, my dog & cat) ones seem to be greatly improved.
posted by Raichle at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2011

Allergists can give you allergy shots and asthma medicine.
posted by dfriedman at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2011

Both my husband and my best friend have benefited GREATLY from seeing an allergist. #1, they got on the shots, which really, really helps their bodies have a better response to pollen. Secondly, they were able to consult with someone who knows more about how allergy meds work than WELL ZYRTEC IS NEW. Thirdly, in the case of my husband, he had an operation for deviated septum/turbinate reduction. Apparently - and this is me repeating my husband repeating his doctor, so take it in the spirit it's offered - years of sinus infections can result in scarred sinuses (again, PARAPHRASING) and that can contribute to even MORE sinus infections. Vicious circle.

SO. If you move back to where your allergies are bad, you will want both an ENT and an allergist. And, in the case of my husband anyway, surgery+shots+the right meds are basically life changing.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:17 PM on February 20, 2011

The steroid nasal sprays rock. If you smoke, quit; if you might have underlying health issues, treat those. Mr. F had epic sinus bullshit until he got his diabetes sorted.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:19 PM on February 20, 2011

Well, according to this episode of Radiolab, you can apparently completely eradicate allergies if you're willing to get hookworms
posted by Mchelly at 6:22 PM on February 20, 2011

The steroid nasal sprays rock.

Seconding that. I have bad seasonal allergies during spring and was close to seeing an allergist after years of little to no success with different pills. I finally got relief with Flonase nasal spray last year and am using it already this year in anticipation of the imminent plant sperm deluge.

Just how good is modern medicine nowadays when it comes to allergies?

You may not need an allergist to find out, but you should definitely talk to a regular GP about what new options are out there, which might have cheaper generic versions, etc. Different folks react differently to different kinds of allergy meds, whether over-the-counter or prescription, so if you move back try a nasal spray (and other drugs if that doesn't do it) before going the specialist route.
posted by mediareport at 6:27 PM on February 20, 2011

Allergists can give you allergy shots and asthma medicine.

A general practitioner can prescribe asthma medicine as well.
posted by mediareport at 6:30 PM on February 20, 2011

I used to live in the Pacific Northwest and had terrible seasonal allergies, then I moved to NYC and they got even worse. Over the course of a few years I took Claratin, got weekly allergy shots, and had my tonsils removed, and my allergies nearly went away. I've since moved back to the Northwest, and have barely any seasonal allergies now. (My dust allergy remains, but isn't a big deal.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:50 PM on February 20, 2011

Allergy shots worked for me, and that was 20 years ago. I had crazy allergies to the point where I don't think I was able to regularly breathe through my nose until I was 10 years old. After two or three years of allergy shots it was all gone.
posted by MillMan at 6:51 PM on February 20, 2011

I didn't have allergy symptoms until I moved to the DC area. After years of suffering, I finally got tested (allergic to lots of things) and did allergy shots for about 2.5 years. Now, over five years later, I am still mostly med free. I have a cat, though, which pushes up my baseline exposure level - so when the seasons change, I have to take OTC Zyrtec for a week or two. I definitely think that immunotherapy was worth it.
posted by candyland at 6:52 PM on February 20, 2011

I finally saw an allergist last year after my allergies kept getting progressively worse and OTC meds just weren't cutting it. I wish I had gone sooner. As others mentioned, steroid nasal spray has made a world of difference. I don't wake up feeling like someone punched me in the face every morning anymore. So worth it.

There are also medicines other than the traditional antihistamines / decongestants an allergist could suggest for you, depending on your symptoms. An allergist could also test you to see what exactly you're allergic to and if it's at all avoidable. If your allergies are that bad, allergy shots may be an option for long-term relief.
posted by geeky at 6:57 PM on February 20, 2011

There is good evidence that allergy shots work. Also note that Steroid nasal sprays (like flonase) work better than oral antihistamine medications (like loratadine). Personally I have allergies but I never touch the stuff. I take quercetin and freeze dried nettles. They work pretty good.
posted by serazin at 7:17 PM on February 20, 2011

When allergies hit me, they hit me hard. I've tried all kinds of things but nothing works better than a Kenalog injection. Though they supposedly last about three months, I only have to go in once a year when the season is at its peak. A day or two after the shot and I'm as good as new for the rest of the season. I've done sublingual drops, which may also have helped but don't have the discipline to do it every day. I'd never get in regularly for shots either. Nomatter - Kenalog is magical.
posted by whatisish at 7:57 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am allergic to dust and many pollens. I have also done allergy shots and used a steroid spray and those helped a lot. The thing that has worked like a charm is living in a place that is completely free of carpet. My allergies have completely disappeared.
posted by sadtomato at 8:01 PM on February 20, 2011

I had allergies to many things as a child, including a severe allergy to bee and wasp stings. I did a few years (sorry, I don't remember how many) of allergy shots. As an adult, last year I went in for a full allergy workup, and I had ZERO reactions to any allergens, even those I specifically remembered being allergic to as a kid.

Very much a relief knowing that all I have to fear from bees is instant searing pain rather than instant searing death.
posted by Addlepated at 8:07 PM on February 20, 2011

Nthing Flonase (or Nasonex, which I prefer). Another thing to try is Singulair - it's usually prescribed for asthma but also preventively for allergies. Works way better than OTC meds, which don't do much for me.

I did allergy shots as an adult and it worked great, *as long* as I kept up the weekly commitment to get a shot. Life got in the way and when I couldn't keep the weekly doctor visits up any longer, all benefit was lost.
posted by chez shoes at 8:31 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

My husband has had great success with a daily dose of Singulair (prescribed) and Flonase/Nasonex. Works way more than OTC meds! Our family doctor gave him the prescription but I would suggest that you have a drug plan as neither drug is cheap.
posted by saradarlin at 10:59 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the replies! Definitely gives me hope. As a followup do any of thhese drugs have common side effects I should be aware of? The steroid sprays in particular worry me a bit, not that I'm basing that on much of anything.
posted by whoaali at 12:00 AM on February 21, 2011

You shouldn't worry too much about the steroid nasal sprays. Some of the older formulations had the potential of causing perforations, but not any more. Nor do they carry any of the issues of systemic corticosteroids.

I don't have allergies per se, but chronic sinusitis and a badly deviated septum. I used Flonase for a while, but it was a two a day shot. I've been using Nasonex for years now and I'm no longer a mouth breather. The drippiness is also almost completely managed. Much better than pills.
posted by michswiss at 3:13 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been taking antihistamines my whole life, but after trying nasal irrigation I hardly ever seem to need them. Also, I hardly ever seem to need the irrigation either, after the initial period: after a few months when I'd do it a few times a week I now do it about once a month.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:32 AM on February 21, 2011

I am probably the exception to the rule, but after several years of off and on steroid nasal spray use I developed a perforation in my septum. I had 2 surgeries this year as a result. I will never use them again, but they did help a lot. Now I am at a loss as to what to do since my recent allergy tests came back completely negative - twice. I will be relying on OTC stuff which does not work as well for me.
posted by maxg94 at 5:55 AM on February 21, 2011

do any of thhese drugs have common side effects I should be aware of?

Claratin D was too speedy for me, but regular Claratin was just fine.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:14 AM on February 21, 2011

A nasal steroid (something-cort or whatever) + Allegra (fexofenadine) pretty much takes me back to normal. If I remember to take them consistently.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:52 AM on February 21, 2011

I just started allergy DROPS for my serious cat allergies! Sub-lingual immunotherapy isn't approved by the FDA, but it is approved by the World Health Organization and is, apparently, used by over 50% of people in Europe (where it's been available for years) who are getting immunotherapy. It's a bit hard to find a practitioner in the U.S., but mine is in NYC; Maybe they could help you find someone in your area. He performed shots for 7 years before deciding that this actually works better, besides being more convenient (drops get mailed to your home, you visit the doc once every 6 months or so) and safer (no risk of anaphalaxis, safe for pregnant women).

You do four drops each morning, which you hold under your tongue for 20 seconds, then can't eat or drink for 30 minutes. They taste like sugar (or, I've read, you can get mint).

As far as cost goes, it's generally not covered by insurance due to aforementioned FDA non-approval, but it's pretty reasonable. For me, the first visit was $250 to get initial consultation and blood drawn for testing (no prick test). Second visit, a week later, was $100 and included my first month of drops. Third visit, a month later, is what my co-pay would be if my insurance covered it. Finally, drops are $100/month. You have to go back to the doc every 6 months I think and I'm not sure what that costs. So...basically, $100/mo ongoing. And you don't have to spend the time/money to go visit the doc all the time. And you don't have to get shots. And it supposedly works as well or better.

Sorry if this reads like an ad, but I'm freakin excited.
posted by The Dutchman at 6:56 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

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