More and more of my patients are asking for non-drug options for the treatment of their allergies. Whether this is an attempt to cut costs, reduce medication side effects, or to thumb their nose at the pharmaceutical industry, this trend is becoming more common. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to treat allergies without medications. I often caution my patients, however, that herbal supplements and non-traditional approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of allergies are unproven and often even more expensive than that of pharmaceutical treatments. Options for natural allergy relief advocated by allergists/immunologists include nasal saline irrigation and allergen immunotherapy. Allergen immunotherapy, administered as allergy shots or allergy drops, are the only treatment of allergies that can modify the underlying problem of allergies -- which may result in a cure. Allergen immunotherapy has been used for over 100 years with proven results -- and, best of all, it's an all-natural therapy.
In recent years, complementary-alternative medicine (CAM) has become very popular, with approximately half of the population either currently using or having used CAM on at least one occasion. The most common forms of CAM include acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, herbal medicines and yoga. This increased use of CAM seems to be based on distrust of conventional and scientific-based medicine, bad experiences with physicians, and/or belief that CAM is safe, natural and without side effects.
Non-traditional physicians have used numerous methods over the years as an attempt to diagnose (and in some cases, treat) allergies. These tests may claim to identify toxins in the body, or foods that are causing someone to be sick or tired. Most of these tests are not founded in science, and a clue is that insurance companies do not cover the tests, and/or not performed in typical medical laboratories (they may only be performed in specialized laboratories). Before spending large sums of money on useless tests, read this article, and talk with your doctor (or a board-certified allergist), before embarking on a series of tests that will only give you useless information, while making someone else rich. Find out which allergy testing methods are valid for the evaluation of allergic disease.
When medications fail to adequately control allergy symptoms and avoidance of the trigger is not easy or possible, an allergist may recommend immunotherapy or "allergy shots". This treatment consists of a series of injections containing small amounts of the substances to which a person is allergic. After a course of allergy shots, 80 to 90 percent of patients have less allergy symptoms, and in many cases their allergies have completely resolved. Allergy shots can be given for allergic rhino-conjunctivitis (nose and eyes), allergic asthma and insect sting allergies.