As was discussed in "Getting Control of Allergies", the best way to escape allergy symptoms is to avoid the things to which the child is allergic. However, sometimes despite best efforts at environmental control, the child still experiences significant symptoms. In these instances, medications can be quite helpful in alleviating the misery of allergies. If you review the four steps that occur during an allergy attack, you will understand how the medications work, but here is a brief summary:
- Allergen lands on the eyes and tissues of the nose.
- Allergen interacts with the IgE found on the cells, and the IgE sends a signal to these cells.
- Cells receive signal which causes them to release chemicals.
- These chemicals cause the tissues to swell, weep fluid, and cause sneezing and itching.
Medications work by trying to prevent steps 3 and 4. Essentially, there are two types of medications that are commonly used: anti-histamines and anti-inflammatory medicines.
Interrupting Step 3
If you could keep the cells from releasing their chemicals (histamine being the main one), then you wouldn't have an allergic reaction. The main medication that does this is called cromolyn sodium and is available by prescription. It comes as a nasal spray and eye drops. Once the cells have gotten the signal to release its chemicals, it is only a matter of minutes before it does so. This amount of time is too short to allow for the person to take the cromolyn and have it work. Therefore, this medication is taken everyday so that there is enough of it already present in the eyes and/or nose when the person inadvertently comes in contact with the allergen. If it is not taken on a regular basis, it is completely ineffective.