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Allergy

Allergies

If you have allergies, you’re not alone.  Allergies are incredibly common.  Your allergies may be seasonal (causing symptoms only at certain times of the year) or perennial (causing symptoms all year long).  Other health problems, such as asthma, often occur along with allergies.  Together, with one of our specialists, we can develop a plan to keep your allergies under control.

What are allergies?

Millions of Americans suffer from nasal allergies, commonly known as hay fever.  Often fragrant flowers are blamed for the uncomfortable symptoms, yet they are rarely the cause; their pollens are too heavy to be airborne.  An Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist can help determine the substances causing your discomfort and develop a management plan that will help make life more enjoyable.

Allergy symptoms appear when the immune system reacts to an allergic substance that has entered the body as though it was an unwelcomed invader.  The immune system will produce special antibodies capable of recognizing the same allergic substance if it enters the body at a later time.

When an allergen reenters the body, the immune system rapidly recognizes it causing a series of reactions.  These reactions often involve tissue destruction, blood vessel dilation, and production of many inflammatory substances including histamine.  Histamine produces common allergy symptoms such as itch, watery eyes, nasal and sinus congestion, headaches, sneezing, scratchy throat, hives, shortness of breath, etc.  Other less common symptoms are balance disturbances, skin irritations such as eczema, and even respirator problems like asthma.

What allergens should be avoided?

Many common substances can be allergens.  Pollens, food, mold, dust, feathers, animal dander, chemicals, drugs such as penicillin, and environmental pollutants commonly cause many to suffer allergic reactions.

Pollens:  One of the most significant causes of allergic rhinitis in the United States is ragweed.  It begins pollinating in late August and continues until the first frost. Late springtime pollens come from the grasses, i.e., timothy, orchard, red topo, sweet vernal, Bermuda, Johnson, and some bluegrasses.  Early springtime hay fever is most often caused by pollens of trees such as elm, maple, birch, poplar, beech, ask, oak, walnut, sycamore, cypress, hickory, pecan, cottonwood, and alder.  Colorful or fragrant flowering plants rarely cause allergy symptoms because their pollens are too heavy to be airborne.

Household allergens:  Certain allergens are present all year long.  These include house dust, pet danders, some food and chemicals.  Symptoms from these are frequently worse in the winter when the house is closed up and where there is poor ventilation.

Mold:  Mold spores can also cause allergy problems. Molds are present all year long, and grow outdoors and indoors.  Dead leaves and farm areas area common sources for outdoor molds.  Indoor plants, old books, bathrooms, and damp areas are common sources of indoor mold growth.  Mold is also common in foods, such as cheese and fermented beverages.

A Painless and Effective Allergy Test

SKIN TESTING IS THE MOST DEPENDABLE FORM OF ALLERGY TESTING

Skin testing for allergies is used to identify the substances that are causing your allergy symptoms.  It is often performed by applying an extract of an allergen to your skin, scratching or piercing the skin to allow exposure and then evaluating the skin’s reaction.  The procedure varies depending on what type of allergy skin test you are having.

This simple test will test multiple geographically specific allergens in our area.  You will be tested for a number of allergens including pollens, grass, trees, pet hair and dander, insect droppings, dust mite….just to name a few.

If you’re having an allergy skin test, plan to spend about two (2) hours for the entire appointment.  For the scratch and intradermal skin tests, the allergen placement part of the test takes about 5 to 10 minutes.  Then you will have to wait about 20 minutes to see how your skin reacts.

Skin tests are generally safe for adults and children of all ages, including infants.  In certain circumstances, though, skin tests aren’t recommended.  Your doctor may advise against skin testing if you:

  • Have ever had a severe allergic reaction.  You may be so sensitive to certain substances that even the tiny amounts used in skin tests could trigger life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis).
  • Take medications that could interfere with test results.  These include antihistamines, many antidepressants and some heartburn medications.  Your doctor may determine that it’s better for you to continue taking these medications than to temporarily discontinue them in preparation for a skin test.
  • Have certain skin conditions.  If severe eczema or psoriasis affects large areas of skin on your arms and back – the usual testing sites – there may not be enough clear, uninvolved skin to do an effective test.  Other skin conditions, such as dermatographism, can cause unreliable test results.

Blood tests (in vitro immunoglobulin E antibody tests) can be useful for those who shouldn’t undergo skin tests.  Blood tests aren’t done as often as skin tests because they can be less sensitive than skin tests and are more expensive.

In general, allergy skin tests are most reliable for diagnosing allergies to airborne substances, such as pollen, pet dander and dust mites.  Skin testing may help diagnose food allergies also, but because food allergies can be complex, you may need additional tests or procedures.

The most common side effect of skin testing is slightly swollen, red, itchy bumps (wheals).  Theses wheals may be most noticeable during the test.  In some people, though, an area of swelling, redness and itching may develop a few hours after the test and persist for as long as a couple of days.

Rarely, allergy skin tests can produce a severe, immediate allergic reaction, so it’s important to have skin tests performed at an office where appropriate emergency equipment and medications are available.

Before recommending a skin test, your doctor will ask you detailed questions about your medical history, your signs and symptoms, and your usual way of treating them.  Your answers can help your doctor determine if allergies run in your family and if an allergic reaction is most likely causing your symptoms.  Your doctor may also perform a physical examination to search for additional clues about the cause of your signs and symptoms.

Medications can interfere with results

Before scheduling a skin test, bring your doctor a list of all of your prescription and over-the-counter medications.  Some medications can suppress allergic reactions, preventing the skin testing from giving accurate results.  Other medications may increase your risk of developing a severe allergic reaction during a test.

Medications clear out of your system at different rates, so your doctor may ask that you stop taking certain medications for up to 10 days prior to the test.  Medications that can interfere with skin tests include:

  • Prescription antihistamines, such as levocetirizine (Xyzal) and desloratadine (Clarinex).
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), diphenjydramine (Benadryl, others), chlorpheniramine 9Chlor-Trimenton), certirizine (Claritin, Zyrtec, others) and fexofenadine (Allegra).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as nortriptyline (Pamelor) and desipramine (Norpramin).
  • Certain heartburn medications, such as cimetidine (Tagamet) and ranitide (Zantac).
  • The asthma medication omalizumab (Xolair).  This medication can disrupt test results for six months or longer even after you quit using it (most medications affect results for days to weeks.

Skin testing is usually done at a doctor’s office.  A nurse generally administers the test, and a doctor interprets the results.  Some tests detect immediate allergic reactions, which develop within minutes of exposure to an allergen.  Other tests detect delayed allergic reactions, which develop over a period of several days.  

Allergy Immunotherapy (how can allergies be managed?)

Allergies are rarely life threatening, but often cause lost work days, decreased work efficiency, poor school performance, and a negative effect on the quality of life.  Considering the millions spent on anti-allergy medications and the cost of lost work time, allergies cannot be considered a minor problem.

For some allergy sufferers symptoms may be seasonal, but for others it is a year-round discomfort.  Allergy symptom control is most successful when multiple management approaches are used simultaneously.  They may include minimizing exposure to allergens, desensitization with allergy shots, and medications.

Allergy Immunotherapy is one of the most popular treatments for allergies. Also known as “allergy shots,” allergy immunotherapy is administered to a patient in a series of injections.  The process works as follows:  our allergy specialists administer small doses of an allergen (a substance to which a patient is allergic) in order to develop tolerance to allergies.  The process is closely related to traditional vaccines.  Ultimately, an allergy patient can be desensitized through immunotherapy to annoying allergens through the development of protective antibodies that reduce the patient’s response to allergens.  Over time, the patient’s reaction to common allergens can be greatly reduced.

Allergy shots are widely regarded as a more effective treatment and medication, and one that can actually pull the progression of allergies.  Medicines such as antihistamines simply retard and cover the symptoms and can cause severe drowsiness.  Allergy immunotherapy has almost zero recorded side effects of any kind.  Your allergy immunotherapy treatment may even be covered by your existing insurance policy.  If you have any questions about your coverage simply call us and we will contract your insurance company for you.

WHY NOT START TODAY???

A detailed patient examination and history is the beginning of an effective allergy treatment program.

Helpful Links

allergycontrol.com
nationalallergy.com
fungalsinusitis.com
alpine-air-purifiers-usa.com

If you are a new or current patient, explore the personal online health services we offer.