There are many causes of allergic reactions, meaning knowing the best treatments is not always easy. However, in most cases, home remedies and OTC medications can help reduce symptoms.

Close to one-third of all adults in the United States have an allergy, whether seasonal or food-based, making allergic reactions a common occurrence.

The treatments for allergies and allergic reactions will depend on their causes and severity.

In this article, we take a close look at a range of treatments for allergic reactions, depending on a person’s symptoms and their severity, including anaphylaxis.

A person holding a selection of allergy medications including pills and nasal sprays.Share on Pinterest
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An allergic reaction occurs when cells in the immune system interpret a foreign substance or allergen as harmful.

The immune system overreacts to these allergens and produces histamine, a chemical that causes allergy symptoms, such as inflammation, sneezing, and coughing.

Many mild to moderate allergic reactions are treatable with home remedies or over-the-counter medications. The following treatments are commonly used to reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction:


Antihistamines can help to treat most minor allergic reactions regardless of the cause. These drugs reduce the body’s histamine production, reducing symptoms, including sneezing, watering eyes, and skin reactions.

Antihistamines come in several forms, usually to help deliver the medication closer to the source of the reaction or make it easier to consume, such as:

  • oral pills
  • dissolvable tablets
  • nasal sprays
  • liquids
  • eye drops

Second-generation antihistamines, including Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine), are less likely to cause drowsiness than first-generation antihistamines, such as Benadryl.

A person who is pregnant, has a heart condition, or liver disorder should consult their doctor before taking antihistamines.

Nasal decongestants

Nasal decongestant pills, liquids, and sprays can also help reduce stuffiness, swollen sinuses, and related symptoms, such as a sore throat or coughing.

However, decongestant medications are not a long-term solution. In most cases, you should not use decongestants for more than 1 week, but this time may differ between products. Always make sure to read dosage instructions closely before use.

Anti-inflammatory medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may also help temporarily reduce pain, swelling, and cramping caused by allergies.

Avoid the allergen

The best way to treat and prevent allergic reactions is to know what triggers them and stay away from them, especially food allergens.

When this is not possible or realistic, using antihistamines or decongestants when in contact with allergens can help to treat the symptoms.

Use a saline sinus rinse

When allergies cause sinus problems, rinsing the sinuses with a saline solution may help. This can remove allergens and clear the airways.

Treating environmental allergies

For airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust, and mold spores, additional treatment options include:

  • throat lozenges with soothing ingredients, such as menthol, honey, or ginger
  • shower and wash all clothing after being exposed to an allergen
  • exercise for a few minutes to help reduce nasal congestion

Treating allergies on the skin

For allergic reactions that cause skin symptoms, including those associated with allergens found in animal saliva, poisonous plants, drugs, chemicals, and metals, additional treatment options include:

  • topical corticosteroid creams or tablets
  • moisturizing creams
  • cold compresses

Treating severe allergies

People should speak to a professional if they have or suspect that they have severe or chronic allergies.

Treatment options for chronic or severe allergies include:

Many traditional medication systems use herbal supplements and extracts to treat and prevent allergic reactions, especially seasonal ones.

Though little scientific evidence supports using most alternative or natural remedies, some people may find that some can relieve their symptoms.

  • Dietary changes: A low fat diet high in complex carbohydrates, such as beans, whole grains, and vegetables, may reduce allergy reactions.
  • Bioflavonoids: These plant-based chemicals in citrus fruits and blackcurrants may act as natural antihistamines.
  • Supplements: Flaxseed oil, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E may improve allergy symptoms.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture treatments may help some people relieve their symptoms.

A very severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.

Anaphylaxis occurs when the body’s immune response to an allergen is so severe and sudden that the body goes into a state of shock. Anaphylaxis can impact multiple organs and, if left untreated, lead to coma, organ failure, and death.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • tingling in the palms of the hand, soles of the feet, and lips
  • swollen tongue, throat, mouth, and face
  • difficulty breathing
  • rapid but weak pulse

Anyone who suspects anaphylaxis should call 911 and seek emergency medical care.

If the person carries an EpiPen, which is a self-injectable dose of epinephrine for treating anaphylaxis, inject this into their thigh as soon as possible.

First aid for anaphylaxis includes:

  • try to keep the person calm
  • the person may vomit, so turn them on their side and keep their mouth clear
  • try to get the person to lay flat on their back with their feet raised about a foot above the ground
  • make sure the person’s clothing is loose, or remove constricting clothing
  • do not give them anything to drink or eat, even if they ask for it
  • if they are not breathing, practice CPR with around 100 firm chest compressions every minute until emergency services arrive

If a person does not have an EpiPen, a doctor or paramedic will give an injection of the hormone epinephrine or adrenaline. This will immediately increase the output of the heart and blood flow throughout the body.

Learn more about how to perform CPR here.

Many people experience allergic reactions when they are exposed to specific allergens, ranging from pet dander and pollen to compounds in foods, drinks, and personal hygiene products.

The best treatment of an allergic reaction depends on the cause, though most minor cases can be treated with OTC antihistamines and anti-itch products.

A person should seek immediate medical attention for chronic or severe allergic reactions, especially those that involve swelling of the throat or changes in heart rate. Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency.