Since allergy symptoms are a direct result of chemicals released by mast cells, it stands to reason that medications designed to prevent those chemical releases can be used to prevent allergic reactions, especially asthma. These medications also have some anti-inflammatory effect, but typically are not as effective for that purpose as are steroids. An advantage is that the side effects associated with mast cell stabilizers are milder than those of steroids are. They include throat irritation, coughing or skin rashes as well as minor stinging or blurred vision when applied as eye drops. Some specific brands also induce a bad taste, which can be reduced by drinking juice after taking the medicine.
Leukotrienes, like histamines, are chemicals released by mast cells in response to allergens. Leukotriene modifiers block the effects of the substance. Side effects are rare, but may include stomach pain or stomach upset, heartburn, fever, stuffy nose, cough, rash, headache, irritability or behavioral issues.
All of the above medications are available with prescriptions, although some are also available in OTC formulations. We find it ironic that many of the side effects exhibit the same symptoms that the sufferer of allergies is trying to alleviate in the first place. Therefore, the following are non-medical symptom relief suggestions.
OTC saline solutions available as nasal sprays or delivered by nasal rinse devices can relieve mild congestion, loosen mucous and prevent crusting. If you opt for the use of a nasal rinse device (neti-pot), be sure to observe strict sterilization procedures to avoid infection.
Artificial tears, a special formula of saline solution, can relieve red, itchy, watery eyes. Neither this nor the previous product contains any medicine.
Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, works by gradually building tolerance to the allergen through introduction of increasing amounts by injection. If you suffer from allergies more than three months of the year, this may be the most effective traditional treatment. Speak to your allergist to learn the potential benefits and cautions for your particular form of allergy.