The classic symptoms of allergies like headaches, runny noses and itchy eyes can be miserable for the person without any additional health issues. But for those who have fibromyalgia, the allergy symptoms are compounded and sometimes even more difficult to treat.
Not Just a Seasonal Problem
When most people think of allergies, they think of a springtime problem that’s made worse by pollen, grass and dust. The truth is that allergies can actually be a year-round problem and depends on the individual’s genetic make-up.
Doctors say that allergies can also be affected by the pollination profile of a geographic area.
What Happens With an Allergy?
In simple terms, an allergy is the result of the body’s overactive immune system trying to fight what it considers a dangerous invader.
In some people, the immune system releases antibodies in response to allergens which the body considers a foreign invader. (Antibodies are responsible for attacking and identifying organisms that make a person sick, like viruses.)
Histamines are released in the blood which causes symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes.
A person’s susceptibility to allergies is genetic just like researchers suspect that fibromyalgia could be hereditary.
Allergy Medications and Fibromyalgia
Most people reach for the over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants to fight allergy symptoms. Some doctors say this is the wrong way to go about treating allergies, especially if you have fibromyalgia.
Dr. Jim Sublett, chief of allergy immunology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky has repeatedly said in literature that over-the-counter remedies can have adverse side effects.
The side effects of antihistamines include drowsiness which is compounded in people with fibromyalgia. Decongestants are stimulants which the doctor says can make the symptoms of co-morbid conditions (a category to which fibromyalgia belongs) worse.
There’s an additional risk of an unintentional overdose if you’re a fibromyalgia sufferer trying to self-treat allergy symptoms with over-the-counter meds. Many of these medications also contain aspirin-related products or acetaminophen which can react dangerously with prescription medications.
Treating Allergies When You Have Fibromyalgia
Dr. Sublett suggests that fibromyalgia sufferers who think they have allergies visit a board-certified allergist to get tested. He notes that symptoms of allergies may be another condition all together that the sufferer may not have thought of.
Testing will determine your specific allergies as well as triggers to those allergies. Once you know this, you can begin more effective and straightforward treatment.
The best way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergen all together. Pollen is a common allergen. If your reaction to pollen is severe enough, you may want to consider wearing a high efficiency face filter so you don’t breathe in the pollen when you’re outside.
You can monitor pollen counts through the National Allergy Bureau. This information is available online. The National Allergy Bureau informs the public when the pollen counts are especially high. When the numbers are high, try to reduce your time outdoors.
Install a high efficiency filter on your air conditioner and heating system to reduce or completely prevent allergens from getting into your house. Wash your bedding at least once a week in hot water to eliminate allergens.
What About Medical Treatment?
Sometimes doing your best to eliminate allergens isn’t enough to alleviate symptoms, especially if you have moderate to severe allergies.
If this is the case, prescription allergy medications can be highly effective and safe. They’re safe because you get them from a board certified allergist who knows the potential interactions between medications including how prescription allergy medication will react with medications often prescribed for fibromyalgia.
Immunotherapy like allergy shots can be a very effective treatment option for fibromyalgia sufferers who have allergies. Certain diets can also naturally strengthen the body’s adrenal and immune system. Once again, a certified allergist can help you with this as well as a dietician.
Always seek medical advice before beginning any specialized diet and before taking supplements to make sure your food and supplement choice isn’t going to make your fibromyalgia symptoms worse.