Explaining Allergies

What are the symptoms of allergies?

There are some symptoms that are commonly associated with allergies such as:
• Runny nose
• Post nasal drip
• Sneezing
• Congestion
• Coughing
• Itchy / Watery eyes

Less common allergy symptoms include:
• Headaches
• Loss of taste and smell
• Low productivity/Poor concentration
• Fatigue
• Sleep disturbances
• Snoring

Allergy symptoms can be more than bothersome or irritating. They can interfere with your day-to-day activities and sleep. Allergies can result in loss of productivity, missed work or school and an overall poor quality of life. Seeking the help of an allergist is the key to treating your allergies.

What should I expect when I see an allergist?
The allergist will conduct a patient history including an assessment of your symptoms, a relevant physical exam and a thorough environmental evaluation. The allergist will also conduct a skin test/allergy test to determine exactly to what you are allergic. Substances such as dust mites, pollens, mold and pet dander are considered common allergens. A skin test determines your individual allergens. This skin test is effective to evaluate both inhalant allergens and food allergens.

What is involved in a skin test?
A skin test is a simple procedure that is best described as tiny pricks that are made on the surface of the skin on your back. The pricks are conducted with a small device, similar to a plastic toothpick. The device contains small amounts of common allergens. The skin is lightly punctured on the surface with a tiny amount of the allergen. If you are allergic to an allergen, a small mosquito bite-like bump will
appear.

For those patients who do not react to this type of skin test, an intradermal process may be performed (similar to a TB test). The allergist can determine your specific allergy profile. Because everyone is unique in what their specific allergic triggers are, knowing what you are allergic to is important for the effective treatment of allergies.

How are allergies treated?
Once the allergist knows the allergens that are causing your symptoms, an effective treatment plan can be recommended. These treatment plans include:
• Avoidance of allergens
• Medications
• Immunotherapy / Allergy shots

How can I avoid allergies?
Obviously, you aren’t expected to live your life in a bubble, but there are things that can be done to minimize your exposure to specific allergens. For example, if you are allergic to dust, you can dust-proof your bedroom by using allergy-proof mattress and pillow covers. If you are allergic to pollen and/or grass, it is beneficial to keep your windows closed and to shower immediately following outdoor activities. There are many ways to cut down on the allergens in your environment. Talk to your allergist or physician about any information that they can provide on allergy avoidance.

Is there a cure for allergies?
Allergy injections, also referred to as immunotherapy, offer a solution. As you are exposed to small, injected amounts of a particular allergen, you gradually decrease your sensitivity and build up your immunity to the specific substances to which you are allergic. Immunotherapy gives allergy sufferers an alternative to a life of allergy medications.

What is the time commitment involved with immunotherapy?
In the beginning, immunotherapy patients will typically have two injections per week for three months during buildup to maintenance dose. Injections are then spaced out and completed within a three to five year period. By this time, most patients are able to discontinue their allergy immunotherapy injections and maintain their tolerance.

What happens if my allergies go untreated?
Allergies can be the underlying cause of frequent sinus, ear and upper and lower respiratory tract infections. Untreated allergies can even exacerbate or cause asthma; The Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology states that “approximately 80 percent of all asthma in children and half of all asthma in adults is caused by allergies.”

Allergies are responsible for symptoms that may make it difficult for you to concentrate or they may cause sinus headaches––both of which can result in a loss of productivity. This loss of productivity can filter into your work, school and home life. Don’t let your allergies control you, take control of your allergies!

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