Although some people are more likely to develop an allergy because of their genetic makeup, anyone can be susceptible to them and there is no guaranteed way to prevent them manifesting.

There are however, certain measures people with allergies can take to prevent a flare up, and to treat symptoms when present.

Prevention

Allergies can go through periods of calm where symptoms are minimal or nonexistent. However, this can change dramatically if a trigger substance is accidentally come into contact with.

The best defence against allergy flare-ups is to stop them occurring in the first place, and avoidance techniques are an integral part of this.

At home

Reducing allergen exposure can help to keep your allergy symptoms at a manageable level. Once you have identified your triggers, you should try and remove them or at least limit their presence in your home.

Many allergies are caused by microscopic substances such as pollen, mold spores and dust mites. Keeping these out of the home completely isn’t always easy, but there are certain practices that can help to reduce their presence:

House dust mites

  • Choose wooden or laminate flooring over carpets.
  • Regularly clean surfaces with a damp cloth to remove dust.
  • Frequently wash or vacuum soft furnishings.
  • Keep the house well ventilated.

Animal dander

  • Keep any pets away from bedroom areas.
  • Clean any pet beds on a regular basis.
  • Arrange for any grooming to take place away from the home.

Mold spores

  • Use extractor fans when cooking or showering.
  • Keep rooms well ventilated so that air can circulate.
  • Avoid drying clothing inside.
  • Have any areas affected by damp or condensation treated.

Pollen

  • Keep all doors and windows closed during high pollen season.
  • Avoid drying clothing outdoors, as it is likely to capture pollen particles.
  • Take a shower when you enter the home from an outdoor environment and change clothes.

At work

In a survey of people with allergies undertaken by Allergy UK, 27 percent of respondents reported an increase in symptoms when at work.

It is thought that this could be due to the change in environment and the fact that as an employee you don’t necessarily have much control over how your office is set up.

There are steps you can take to try and limit how much your allergies affect you in the office; but remember to have a conversation with your line manager about your allergy before you start to implement any changes.

First of all, make sure that you know exactly what it is that you are allergic to. This may involve getting allergy tests carried out by your doctor or an allergy specialist.

How to reduce the risk of allergies in the workplace:

  • Keep the office well ventilated.
  • Replace carpeted floors with solid wood floors or allergy approved flooring.
  • Keep your personal desk environment as clean and tidy as possible.
  • Limit the amount of outdoor pollutants that enter the office by keeping all coats and outerwear in one area away from workspaces.

Food

Those with allergies to certain foods will need to take care wherever they go, but at home they should:

  • Read the ingredient labels on all foods prior to purchasing.
  • Cook food from scratch as much as possible.

When at work, people with allergies to food should also:

  • Make sure any food they are offered by co-workers is suitable before eating it
  • Carry their EpiPen with them at all times if necessary
  • Inform their line manager of their allergies upon commencing employment

Treatment

There is no cure for allergies although there are medications available which can make living with an allergy more manageable.

Your doctor or allergy specialist will help you to determine the best treatment plan for your specific condition.

Over time changes or adjustments may be required as you discover which type of treatment is most suitable.

Medicine groups used to treat allergies include the following:

Antihistamines

This type of drug is available as a cream, tablet, liquid, nasal spray and also eye drops.

Each variation of the medicine offers allergy relief by blocking the action carried out by the chemical known as histamine.

This chemical is often present in allergic reactions and is the key component behind many symptoms. It can cause constricted airways and enlarged blood vessels.

Some treatments of this type can be taken prior to allergen exposure to minimise the extent of symptoms before they occur; otherwise, they can be taken following a reaction to relieve symptoms.

Antihistamines are often prescribed to patients living with allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, allergies to insect bites and stings or animal hair, or allergic dermatitis.

Historically, antihistamines have been linked with causing feelings of drowsiness, but more recently manufacturers have addressed this issue and developed non-drowsy versions of these medicines.

Emollients

Administered as a topical cream or lotion, emollients are used to treat eczema and dry skin conditions.

Dry skin is often easily irritated which can lead to scratching, and breaks in the skin. These breaks can sometimes become infected, thus making treatment more difficult.

Emollients work by soothing irritated areas and creating a protective barrier over the skin which works to keep moisture locked inside.

Some emollients also contain antibacterials to help prevent infection, or a steroid agent to limit inflammation.

It can take a few attempts before you find a suitable emollient for your skin condition. Some conditions aren’t suited to thicker creams, just as others might not be suited to more greasy ointments.

Corticosteroids

These types of steroids contain an artificial version of the natural hormone cortisol which is produced by the adrenal gland.

They can be used to treat various allergies including asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema.

The medication helps to reduce the inflammatory response triggered by an allergic reaction. For asthmatics this means that their tightened airways are allowed to relax so that breathing is made easier.

They can be prescribed in numerous forms including injections, inhalers, tablets, nasal sprays, topical creams, lotions or gels.

Adrenaline auto-injectors

This type of medication is prescribed in case of extreme allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis.

Anaphylactic shock is a life threatening condition. The release of histamine in this case constricts the airways to the point where breathing becomes difficult, and may even result in a loss of consciousness.

In auto-injector treatments such as EpiPen, the active constituent is epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. When injected, it helps to decrease swelling by narrowing blood vessels and opening up airways to make breathing easier. Auto-injector devices such as Epipen are designed for easy and rapid administration.

It must be carried by the allergic person at all times in case of a reaction.

Immunotherapy

This form of treatment works by training the immune system to recognise that an allergen does not pose a threat. Currently, it is the closest thing to a cure for certain allergies.

Initially a very small amount of the trigger allergen is introduced to the patient in a controlled environment. It is usually administered via injection or a sample underneath the tongue.

Over a period of time, more of the allergen is introduced as the immune system learns to tolerate the substance.

Immunotherapy is not suitable for all allergies. In the UK it tends only to be used in those allergic to insect stings, pollen and animal dander.

It should also be noted that this treatment carries an element of risk even when carried out in safe hospital environments. It requires time, effort and money and is not guaranteed to produce results.

Natural remedies

Coming to terms with a chronic illness such as an allergy can be difficult. Especially if it involves taking daily medication potentially for life. Some turn to alternative treatments in search of relief.

It is important to remember that if you want to make adaptations to your allergy treatment plan, including the introduction of non-medicinal remedies, you should speak to your doctor first.

Apple cider vinegar has long been heralded by its users as a condiment with several health benefits. However, its use as an allergy treatment is yet to be scientifically proven.

Research into the use of probiotics in allergies is ongoing. The relationship between good gut health and the immune system is not fully understood. However, some people believe that including probiotic foods and drinks in their diet helps them to manage their allergies.

A number of people living with hay fever believe that consuming a daily portion of local honey can contribute to a decrease in allergy symptoms. Unfortunately, the science behind this theory is less convincing. One American study found no allergy relief benefits when honey was given to a test group.