Can allergies be prevented?

Dr. Anita Gupta

Allergic reactions typically occur when the body’s immune system perceives an allergen as harmful and causes inflammation of the skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system. Allergies differ in severity among people, and while they cannot be completely prevented, there are ways to ease and preclude future reactions. In order to reduce symptoms, it is important to be aware of what triggers the reaction and how to avoid the allergen. Depending on the type of allergy, over-the-counter antihistamines or prescription oral medications and nasal sprays can diminish the effects of the reaction. For extremely severe, life-threatening reactions, emergency epinephrine should be carried at all times in the event of anaphylaxis. Keeping notes of what alleviates your symptoms and when reactions occur can help with identifying and avoiding any triggers.

Allergies cannot necessarily be prevented, but future reactions can be avoided, depending on what you're allergic to. Start a journal to determine what causes your allergies, and note everything: symptoms, activities, timing and what helps relieve symptoms. By determining your triggers and best course of treatment, you can avoid what causes your allergies and prevent the symptoms.

It is thought that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 4-6 months of life may prevent or decrease allergies in children. Another possibility being studied is the "hygiene hypothesis" that suggests that exposure to some allergens in the first year of life may prevent acquiring allergies later on.

Depending on the allergen, some allergens are easier to avoid than others. Allergens exist all around us. Some people are allergic to environmental allergens, such as pollen and grass. These allergies tend to be seasonal and are very difficult to avoid. Other allergies are to foods we eat. Often, knowing what types of food you are allergic to can be enough to avoid them. However, it is always important to read packaging to evaluate for types of foods you may be allergic to. Also, it is important in restaurants to ask if ingredients you are allergic to are in the prepared meals.

Other types of environmental allergens exist in your house and can include dust mites, insect feces and dust itself. Frequent cleaning, using quality air filters and, in some cases, using mattress covers can help to keep the allergen load down.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.