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Q. Is there a vaccine available in the U.S. to prevent allergies?

A. Hay fever symptoms can make a person miserable. We have successfully used many treatments and strategies to help patients cope, but unfortunately a vaccine to prevent allergies is not yet available in the United States.

Meanwhile, you can ease symptoms with the right treatment, and by avoiding triggers such as dust mites, molds, pet dander, and pollens. Avoiding irritants such as tobacco smoke, perfumes and harsh cleaning products may also help. Lifestyle changes such as using air conditioning or dehumidifier inside, washing sheets in hot water and removing carpeting or at least vacuuming frequently may help.

Sometimes it takes trial and error to find the right treatment for hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis. Some people cope well with over-the-counter medications, some need prescription medications and some control their symptoms through a combination of treatments. Over the counter medications include antihistamines and decongestants.

Prescription medications include a once daily tablet called montelukast and nasal steroid sprays. If these measures don’t help, you may want to consider allergy shots, or immunotherapy. You’ll receive regular shots containing small amounts of allergen, desensitizing you to their effects.

An allergy specialist can help you find the treatment that suits you best. You may want to discuss this with your primary care doctor, and I would be glad to offer a second opinion. You can reach my office at (412) 359-6640.

Deborah Gentile, MD
Director of Research, Department of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Allegheny General Hospital