Nasal allergies may also be referred to
as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. This is an allergic reaction to
elements in the environment, such as trees, grass and weed pollens, pet
dander, molds and cockroaches. If you are allergic to pollens
you may only be symptomatic at certain times of the year. If you are
allergic to indoor allergens, such as pet dander, you may experience
symptoms year round.
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Chronic nasal congestion and snoring
- Itchy roof of the mouth or throat
- Frequent sneezing
- Dark circles under the eye
Your allergist will take a complete medical history, perform a physical examination and prescribe the appropriate tests.
Skin testing is the main tool used to identify what you are allergic
to. Skin testing consists of introducing small amounts of allergens into
the skin. Your reaction to each allergen will determine if you are
allergic to it and the level of severity.
If pet allergies are suspected, your doctor will recommend skin testing to determine what all you are allergic to and the level of severity.
For an individual who has food allergies, enjoying a peanut butter sandwich can cause reactions that range from mild to severe, including a life threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Reactions usually appear within minutes after consumption, but can occur after several hours. It is estimated that food allergies now affect an estimated 15 million people in the United States alone.
While it is possible for almost any food to cause some level of an allergic reaction, there are 8 foods that account for the vast majority of allergic food reactions in the United States. These are commonly referred to as the “Big Eight”.
- Tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews)
- Shellfish (the most common food allergy for adults)
Sesame allergy would now probably be considered the 9th
on the list, as it is becoming increasingly more common in the United States.
Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakes a food (the trigger) as “dangerous” and produces an antibody (immunoglobulin E or IgE) that reacts with the allergen and releases chemicals in the body which cause the allergic reaction
Asthma is a chronic lung disease in which the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and swollen and muscle spasms restrict the flow of air to the lungs. It is a relatively common condition and the incidence of the disease has grown in recent years. Currently, it is estimated that close to 15 million Americans have asthma. Children account for a significant portion of asthmatics. Asthmatic and allergic disorders rank at the top of childhood diseases.
Although the exact cause of asthma is still being studied, it is known to be a combination of inflammation of the lung combined with narrowing of the lung passages activated by the body’s immune system. There are a number of factors that are known to trigger an asthma episode.
The diagnosis of asthma can be difficult at times. The doctor will do a complete medical history, perform a physical exam and order lung function tests. Allergy testing may also obe recommended to see if allergens are causing your asthma to become worse. Skin testing or blood testing is routinely used to identify your specific allergy triggers.
Approximately 20% of the population will experience hives at some point in their lives. The medical term for hives is urticaria. Hives can form anywhere on the body. They can be painful and embarrassing for many people, especially children. Typically a person will experience itching first, followed by the development of red, raised welts on the skin. The raised welt is also referred to as a wheal. Hives can vary greatly in size and also may join together to form larger areas referred to as plaques. There are two main types of hives:
- Acute urticaria: These hives last less than 6 weeks. Acute urticaria can be caused by many things including allergens (foods, latex, medications) and physical factors (exercise). The most common causes of acute hives are foods, medications, insect bites or infections. While acute hives will fade on their own, the short term use of an antihistamine is often recommended.
- Chronic urticaria: These hives last longer than 6 weeks. Chronic urticaria is much rarer than acute urticaria. The cause of chronic urticaria is typically more difficult to identify.
Urticaria can also be one of the first symptoms of a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can cause difficulty breathing, a feeling that you are about to faint, and sometimes loss of consciousness. It is a life-threatening condition and needs emergency treatment.
Fortunately, in many cases the trigger of acute hives is quite easily determined. The cause of chronic urticaria is more difficult to determine. For most people the cause is not determined. Your allergist will do a detailed history, physical exam and prescribe appropriate tests to help identify the cause. If you suffer from hives, your doctor will consult with you on the treatment plan best for you.