Ask pet owners and they will tell you that their dogs or cats are like extended members of the family, which is why it isn't surprising that allergic pet owners choose to endure their symptoms rather than give their pets up. And the problem is a common one - according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 1 in 3 Americans have some form of pet allergy, some of which can develop from a young age, while others can develop later in life.
According to The Mayo Clinic, allergies occur when the body's immune system is triggered by the presence of foreign substances like pollen, mold or pet dander. When under threat, your immune system produces proteins known as antibodies, which protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify your particular allergen as something harmful, even though it isn't.
The easiest solution to pet allergies is removing the pet from the home, but for those who can't imagine life without their pets, there are other options available. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), your benefit covers a wide range of potential treatments for pet allergies. Here are a few options to keep in mind.
Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is one of the most popular traditional treatments of preventing allergic reactions to allergens. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergy shots decrease the body's sensitivity to allergens and function much like a vaccine.
The body responds to injected amounts of a specific allergen, which is given in gradually increasing doses to boost one's immunity or tolerance to the substance. This treatment is eligible for FSA reimbursement and could be a beneficial approach for many pet owners.
Antihistamines are among the best options for allergy sufferers to control their body's immune response to the presence of allergens. According to The Mayo Clinic, histamine is a substance that is active during an allergic reaction, which can result in swelling, skin reactions and respiratory effects. Antihistamines can help relieve the itching, stuffy nose and sneezing that come with an allergic reaction. Best of all, over-the-counter antihistamines are FSA-eligible with a prescription from a doctor.
Decongestants are a type of medicine that are chemically distinct from antihistamines, but they are typically combined in most products to provide optimal relief from allergic symptoms. As opposed to fighting the body's production of histamine, decongestants assist in reducing swelling in nasal tissues to help you breathe more easily. Once again, these OTC medicines are FSA-eligible with a prescription.
Last but not least, nasal irrigation is a great option for allergy sufferers to clear their nasal passages of mucous, allergens and other particulates that could contribute to their allergic reactions. Your FSA covers both saline irrigation rinses and Neti pots that can administer therapy directly to your nasal passages to alleviate your symptoms.
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While spring allergies certainly get a lot more attention when pollen levels peak, winter has its own set of various indoor irritants to trigger those allergy symptoms many of us know all too well. As your furnace kicks in during the winter months, it can send dust mites, mold spores, and insect parts into the air which can find its way to your breathing passages to cause an adverse reaction.
One to way to help mitigate symptoms is to get a better idea of where these allergy triggers are surfacing from. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that particularly love to hide in mattresses and bedding. Their droppings and remains, when airborne, are most likely the source of your symptoms.
Additionally, mold can be found in damp and humid areas such as basements and bathrooms, but can also manifest itself under moldy carpets, soggy drywall, and areas with water leaks. As you spend more time indoors in the winter, these allergens become more prominent in causing discomfort and allergic reactions.
Treatment for your winter allergies can include Antihistamines and Decongestants, both of which are available for purchase with an FSA (with a prescription) on FSAstore.com. Antihistamines help to reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching. Decongestants clear mucus in the nose and lungs to relieve congestion and swelling.
Antihistamines (Prescription required to purchase with FSA):
If neither of these work and your symptoms are serious, you may want to consider immunotherapy, which consists of allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets. Immunotherapy should expose your body to gradually bigger doses of the allergen to curb your symptoms for the longer term.
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