Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
The first line of treatment for controlling pet allergy is avoiding the allergy-causing animal as much as possible. When you minimize your exposure to pet allergens, you should expect to have allergic reactions that are less often or less severe. However, it's often difficult or impossible to eliminate completely your exposure to animal allergens. Even if you don't have a pet, you may unexpectedly encounter pet allergens transported on other people's clothes.
In addition to avoiding pet allergens, you may need medications to control symptoms.
Your doctor may direct you to take one of the following medications to improve nasal allergy symptoms:
- Antihistamines reduce the production of an immune system chemical that is active in an allergic reaction, and they help relieve itching, sneezing and runny nose. Prescription antihistamines taken as a nasal spray include azelastine (Astelin, Astepro) and olopatadine (Patanase). Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine tablets include fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy), loratadine (Claritin, Alavert) and cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy); OTC antihistamine syrups are available for children. Prescription antihistamine tablets, such as levocetirizine (Xyzal) and desloratadine (Clarinex), are other options.
- Corticosteroids delivered as a nasal spray can reduce inflammation and control symptoms of hay fever. These drugs include fluticasone (Flonase), mometasone furoate (Nasonex), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ) and ciclesonide (Omnaris). Nasal corticosteroids provide a low dose of the drug and have a much lower risk of side effects than do oral corticosteroids.
Decongestants can help shrink swollen tissues in your nasal passages and make it easier to breathe through your nose. Some over-the-counter allergy tablets combine an antihistamine with a decongestant. Oral decongestants can increase blood pressure and shouldn't be taken if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma or cardiovascular disease. In men with an enlarged prostate, the drug can worsen the condition. Talk to your doctor about whether you can safely take a decongestant.
Over-the-counter decongestants taken as a nasal spray may briefly reduce allergy symptoms. If you use a decongestant spray for more than three days in a row, it can contribute to congestion.
- Cromolyn sodium prevents the release of an immune system chemical and may reduce symptoms. You need to use this over-the-counter nasal spray several times a day, and it's most effective when used before signs and symptoms develop. Cromolyn sodium doesn't have serious side effects.
- Leukotriene modifiers block the action of certain immune system chemicals. Your doctor may prescribe this prescription tablet, montelukast (Singulair), if you can't tolerate corticosteroid nasal sprays or an antihistamine nasal spray. Possible side effects of montelukast include upper respiratory infection, headache and fever. Less common side effects include behavior or mood changes, such as anxiousness or depression.
- Immunotherapy. You can "train" your immune system not to be sensitive to an allergen. This is done through a series of allergy shots called immunotherapy. One to two weekly shots expose you to very small doses of the allergen, in this case, the animal protein that causes an allergic reaction. The dose is gradually increased, usually during a three- to six-month period. Maintenance shots are needed every four weeks for three to five years. Immunotherapy is usually used when other simple treatments aren't satisfactory.
- Nasal irrigation. You can use a neti pot or a specially designed squeeze bottle to flush thickened mucus and irritants from your sinuses with a prepared saltwater (saline) rinse. If you're preparing the saline solution yourself, use water that's contaminant-free — distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered with a filter that has an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller. Be sure to rinse the irrigation device after each use with contaminant-free water, and leave open to air-dry.
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