ALLERGY SYMPTOMS, ALLERGY TREATMENT, AND ALLERGY TESTING
What is an allergy?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction of your immune system to a substance. This substance can be pollens from trees, grasses, weeds, molds, pet dander, cockroaches, dust mites, medications, topical chemicals and insect venom. You can also have an allergy to certain foods.
Normally, these substances in the environment or you ingest should not cause any reaction at all, but for some reason, your immune system sees these allergens as foreign and mistakingly tries to attack them. These substances that you are allergic to are called Allergens. When you come in contact with these allergens and your body starts an immune response against them, you may get a variety of symptoms.
What are some common allergy symptoms?
- Runny nose
- Nasal drainage
- Post-nasal drip
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Snoring due to nasal congestion
- Sleep problems
- Loss of productivity at work
- Reactive airway disease
- Severe blockage of the airway
What is Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic Rhinitis is a condition caused by exposure to allergens, (the term for the substance causing the allergy) where the tissue or mucosa inside the nose becomes swollen and causes nasal congestion. Drainage from the nose, (runny nose) or drainage down the back of the throat may also be common. In addition, sneezing is often included in the symptoms.
How do allergies develop?
There is definitely a genetic component to allergies. If your parents have allergies, chances are you will as well. Allergies can develop at any point in your life, even as an adult. For inhaled allergies, it usually takes a few seasons for allergies to develop.
How do you test for allergies?
Allergy testing can give you exact information, not only on what you are allergic to But how allergic you actually are to each allergen. It is important to go over this testing with the physician, so they can help interpret these tests most accurately.
There are two types of tests.
ALLERGY SKIN TEST
The most common is skin testing or some may call it skin prick testing. In this test, tiny amounts of the allergens most commonly found in our region of the country or other allergens based on your medical history, are introduced with a tiny “prick” along your arms or back. By seeing how your body reacts, we can accurately measure how sensitive or allergic you are to each of these allergens. We then take this information and create a customized plan unique to your situation. Skin testing is the most reliable form of testing. However, sometimes your doctor may want to order a blood test.
ALLERGY BLOOD TEST
Although skin tests are more reliable, your doctor may need to order a blood test for a number of reasons:
(1) If you are taking a medication that may interfere with the testing, such as a beta-blocker.
(2) If you have had a significant reaction to an allergen in the past and the decision is made to avoid the exposure.
(3) If you have extremely sensitive skin or a serious skin condition.
The first and most important treatment of allergens is to avoid them in the first place. “See tips for avoiding allergens”
But we realize that this is not always the easiest or most practical method. No one wants to miss their children’s soccer games. And changing out carpets for tile and other floorings, or having someone else cut the grass is not always feasible. So the next line of treatment may be over-the-counter medications or prescriptions.
Antihistamine pills or tablets work on the entire body and can prevent more systemic (or whole-body) reactions. These are best taken at least two hours in advance of exposure to the allergens.
NASAL STEROID SPRAYS
Nasal steroid sprays are sprays you squirt into your nose once or twice a day depending on the spray and your age. These need to be used daily in order to work. They work by shrinking down the mucosa in the nose.
Nasal steroid/antihistamine sprays work by combining a steroid in the nose and an antihistamine in the nose.