What Causes Tongue Swelling?
How to Reduce Allergic Swelling
Allergic swelling, also called angioedema, is a common result of encountering the substances that trigger your allergic reactions. Usually, the swelling will happen around your eyes, lips, hands, feet, and/or throat.Swelling can be uncomfortable and scary, but it will go down! If your swelling doesn’t interfere with your ability to breathe, you can treat it at home. If your swelling persists, worsens, or interferes with your breathing, seek medical attention. Fortunately, it’s also possible to prevent allergic swelling.
Treating Your Swelling at Home
Take an antihistamine.This will lower your body’s response to the allergen, which can reduce your swelling. You can find an antihistamine over-the-counter, but your doctor could also prescribe one that best fits your needs.
- Some antihistamines cause drowsiness, may be fast acting, and can be taken in different doses. For daytime use, choose one that is labeled as non-drowsy. For example, cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and fexofenadine (Allegra) are all popular non-drowsy options that also give you 24-hr relief from allergy symptoms.
- Be sure to follow all of the instructions on the packaging.
- Don’t take an antihistamine for longer than a week without talking to your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor before taking an antihistamine.
Apply a cool compress to the area for up to 20 mins at a time.A cool compress, such as an ice pack, will reduce your body’s inflammatory response.This will reduce both your swelling and pain.
- Don’t put ice up against your skin without first wrapping fabric around it. Otherwise, you could damage your skin.
Stop taking any medication, supplement, or herb not prescribed by a doctor.Unfortunately, these items can cause allergic reactions in some people. Even common over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can trigger some people.
- Get your doctor's approval before you start taking it again.
Use your inhaler if you have one and experience throat swelling.This will help open your airways. However, if you have trouble breathing, then it’s important that you see the doctor immediately.
Use an Epipen for emergency situations.The active ingredient in an Epipen is epinephrine, which is a type of adrenaline. It can help relieve the symptoms of your allergic reaction fast.
- After you administer the medicine, visit your doctor immediately.
- If your doctor has not prescribed an Epipen for you, visit an emergency room, where they can administer the medication.
Seeking Medical Attention
Visit your doctor if your swelling persists or is severe.Swelling that doesn’t impede your ability to breathe should respond to at-home treatment. If it doesn’t get better after a few hours or starts to get worse, you should seek medical assistance. The doctor can prescribe a stronger treatment, such as corticosteroids.
- You should also see the doctor if you’ve never experienced swelling before.
- Seek emergency medical care if you’re having trouble breathing, have abnormal breathing sounds, or feel faint.
Ask your doctor for an oral corticosteroid.These medications reduce inflammation in your body, which in turn reduces swelling. They’re often used after antihistamines alone have been ineffective at reducing swelling.
- For example, your doctor may prescribe prednisone.
- Corticosteroids can have side effects, including fluid retention that can cause swelling, high blood pressure, weight gain, glaucoma, mood issues, behavioral issues, and memory problems.
- For a severe reaction, the doctor may administer corticosteroids via an IV.
- Follow all of your doctor’s instructions for taking your medication.
Get allergy testing to discover your triggers, if necessary.Your doctor may order allergy testing.If this occurs, you’ll visit an allergy specialist. A nurse will scratch your skin with a small amount of various allergens. They’ll then monitor your reaction to each substance to see if you are allergic.
- Your specialist will evaluate your test results. Based on this information, the specialist can recommend good treatment options for you, such as avoiding your triggers and possibly getting allergy shots.
- A single reaction, especially if it's mild, may not warrant testing or regular treatment. A severe reaction, though, or reactions that occur enough to disrupt your daily life should be tested.
Preventing Allergic Swelling
Avoid your triggers.These are the things that you’re allergic to, such as foods, substances, or plants. Staying away from them is the best way to prevent the swelling that comes along with an allergic reaction.Here are some ways to do that:
- Check ingredients lists on foods you want to eat.
- Ask people about the contents of foods and drinks.
- Don’t take medications, supplements, or herbs without talking to your doctor.
- Keep your home clean and as free of allergens as possible. For example, keep dust at bay by cleaning often with a duster that traps particles.
- Use a HEPA air filter.
- Don’t go outside during peak pollen hours. Alternatively, wear a face mask.
- Don’t interact with animals whose dander triggers you.
Take your medications.Your doctor may recommend taking a daily antihistamine. This could include a non-drowsy 24-hour option like cetirizine (Zyrtec) or loratadine (Claritin). In some cases, your doctor may prescribe other medications as well, such as an inhaler or corticosteroid. Take your medications as prescribed by the doctor.
- If you skip your medication, then your body will be more susceptible to your triggers.
Avoid things that aggravate swelling.This often includes getting very hot, eating spicy food, or drinking alcohol. Although they may not be the direct cause of your allergic swelling, they can make it worse or make your body more prone to swelling.
- Ibuprofen and ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors can also worsen swelling. If the doctor has prescribed one of these, talk to your doctor before stopping, as they may decide that the benefits of taking them outweigh the risk of swelling.
To reduce allergic swelling, take an over-the-counter antihistamine and apply a cool compress to the swollen area in 20 minute intervals. If you feel your throat swelling, you can try using your inhaler, but if the situation feels like an emergency, administer an Epipen or go to an emergency room immediately. You can also ask your doctor about prescription oral corticosteroid medications like prednisone to prevent future reactions.
- Allergic swelling usually lasts 1-3 days, but may be longer if you have ingested something that your body needs to clear.
Sources and Citations
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