RAST (a kind of allergy test) testing or skin testing to identify the offending allergens is often a prerequisite to immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is initiated with weekly injections of small amounts of antigen (allergen). The amount of antigen and the length of time between injections are slowly increased. Maintenance injections are usually given once every three to four weeks. The principal side effect of immunotherapy is a local reaction at the injection site, but the risk of anaphylaxis warrants caution.
Immunotherapy is not a cure for allergic rhinitis. Approximately 85 percent of all patients obtain long-lasting symptom relief from immunotherapy. After three to five seasons of adequate symptom relief, it may be possible to discontinue immunotherapy. Sixty percent of all patients continue to derive symptomatic benefit, with reduced need for medications after immunotherapy is discontinued. Environmental modification should be maintained during immunotherapy.

Avoidance measures
Seasonal allergens (such as tree, grass and ragweed pollens) are difficult to avoid outdoors, but can be controlled by closing windows and running air conditioners.
Excessive exposure to allergens, such as outdoor molds, can be prevented by avoiding lawn mowing and other activities likely to stir these up.
Maintaining an allergen-free environment also includes covering pillows and mattresses with plastic covers, substituting synthetic materials (such as foam mattresses or acrylics) for animal products (such as wool or horsehair) and removing dust-collecting household fixtures (like carpets, drapes and bedspreads). Air purifiers and dust filters may help.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Allergic Rhinitis

Do you recommend skin testing to diagnose allergic rhinitis?
Do you recommend skin testing to pinpoint the responsible allergens?
What type of medical treatment will you be recommending?
Will you be prescribing any medication?
What are the side effects?
Do you recommend desensitization?
What over-the-counter medications are most effective?
Are there any home treatments you might recommend to help relieve symptoms?
Should medication be taken before going outside?

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