How to Treat an Allergic Reaction

How to Treat an Allergic Reaction

An allergic reaction occurs when the body's immune system becomes hypersensitive to dust, pollen, animal dander or plants. Certain foods or medications can also trigger allergies. A reaction may be a rash, sneezing, coughing, itchy or watery eyes, swelling or wheezing. Treatment for an allergic reaction can be done at home if it's mild. Long term allergies may require a prescription while severe allergies require a hospital visit.


1. Take an oral antihistamine to treat nasal allergies, skin inflammation or itchy and watery eyes, which are commonly caused by animal dander, flowers or grass. Buy non-drowsy antihistamines so that you can stay alert during the day.

2. Try an anti-inflammatory hydrocortisone cream to relieve skin itching or redness from a reaction, such as from clothing. You can also use wet cloths or an ice pack to help heal the skin irritation. Wrap a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel if ice is unavailable.

3. See an allergy specialist for a prescription antihistamine if the over-the-counter formulas don't help. Cetirizine can be taken indefinitely to relieve reactions to dust, pollen, mold or pet dander. Use a prescription decongestant if you're having problems with a runny nose or sinuses due to pollen in the air and over the counter drugs don't work.

4. Use a prescription nasal corticosteroid spray if the antihistamines don't cure your allergic reactions. You can use this spray daily without worrying about side effects of taking steroids by mouth.

5. Check into immunotherapy, or allergy shots, if you have frequent allergic reactions. These shots are antigens that are given in stages, depending on the patient's needs. The intent is to alter the immune system's response to prevent future reactions. In other words, the body becomes "desensitized" to the allergen.

6. Get to the emergency room if you experience sudden, severe hives, swelling, stomach pain, vomiting or difficulty breathing. These reactions are commonly caused by eating or drinking foods such as peanuts, milk, eggs or seafood. The hives and the swelling can also come from insect stings. You will be evaluated and treated with an IV if it's determined that you need medication immediately.