Allergies

DR. Z,

My allergies flare up at this time every year. How can I find out what I’m allergic to and what can I do about it?


For most people, spring means blooming flowers and budding trees, but for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, it means congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes. An allergy, by definition, is an abnormal reaction by a person’s immune system against a normally harmless substance. Many allergens are airborne particles, such as mold and pollen, but allergic reactions can result from food, insect stings, medications, latex, and even certain metals. These “allergens” can lead to an allergic reaction such as eczema, hives, hay fever, asthma, and reactions to food allergies and the venom of stinging insects like bees and wasps.

People who suffer from seasonal allergies are most susceptible to airborne allergens. Late March through early May represents the spring allergy season, late May to mid-July is summer considered the summer allergy season and late August until the to first frost is considered the fall allergy season.


Most Common Airborne Allergens

With these specific allergens, other things that can worsen your allergy symptoms include aerosol sprays, air pollution, cold temperatures, humidity, irritating fumes, tobacco smoke, wind, and wood smoke.


POLLEN

Allergies during April and May may be due to pollen from trees. Allergies during the summer months may be due to grass and weed pollen. Whereas fall-time allergies are usually due to ragweed.

MOLD

Humid climates and rainy weather is the cause of this allergen. Anywhere that water may collect such as shower curtains, window moldings and damp basements may contain high amounts of mold. People who work outside around rotting logs, hay, mulches, or compost piles may be at an increased risk of allergies to mold


ANIMAL DANDER

Proteins found in the skin, saliva, and urine of pets such as cats and dogs are allergens. Exposure to these animals may cause allergic reactions in certain people.

DUST

Dust is composed of many allergies including dust mites. Dust mites are living creatures that can survive in bedding, mattresses, carpeting as well as live on dead skin cells.


Common Allergic Conditions


ALLERGIC RHINITIS (HAY FEVER)

Allergic rhinitis is the most common chronic disease and affects nearly 30 percent of the population. It is defined as inflammation and irritation of the nasal passages due to seasonal and year-round allergens. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itching of the nose, eyes, and throat, and post-nasal drip. Complications of allergic rhinitis include sinus and ear infections.

ASTHMA

10 million people suffer from allergic asthma. Asthma is a chronic condition involving the respiratory system in which the airway occasionally constricts, becomes inflamed, and is lined with excessive amounts of mucus, often in response to one or more triggers. In the case of most asthmatics, airborne allergens such as pollen, mold, dust, and animal dander greatly affect the management of their condition. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, and early fatigue with exercise.


ATOPIC DERMATITIS (ECZEMA)

Atopic Dermatitis is the most common allergic skin rash, characterized by red, flaky bumps or blisters, with excoriations, or areas of broken skin from aggressive scratching. In infants, the rash occurs on the chest, cheeks, and scalp. In younger children, the rash is more common in the skin folds of the elbows and behind the knees but can occur on the face, neck, hands, and back.

URTICARIA (HIVES)

Urticaria is an itchy rash that can occur at any age. It appears as raised red bumps of various shapes and sizes and can cover the entire body. Hives typically last for only minutes to hours and unlike the rash of eczema, there are usually no excoriations or breaking of the skin.


Diagnosis and Treatment

Allergy testing is accomplished with skin testing or blood testing. Skin testing or “puncture testing” involves puncturing the skin with small amounts of suspected allergens and observing for any visible inflammatory reactions. This process can be rather uncomfortable and tedious. A newer and much simpler method, which is now available at MY DR NOW, involves blood testing to detect allergies to specific substances. With this process, one single vial of blood can be used to detect over 100 different food and environmental allergens.

Treating allergic conditions includes everything from over the counter medications to prescribed inhalers, and oral and topical medications. Kenalog shots may be administered in your doctor’s office to quickly alleviate your symptoms while we wait for the oral medication to kick in and take affect. Another option for patients with chronic allergies includes the process of desensitization with “allergy shots.” Desensitization occurs as patient’s are gradually vaccinated with progressively larger doses of the allergen in question in an attempt to reduce the severity or eliminate hypersensitivity to the allergen altogether.

With many options available to manage your allergic condition, visit your medical home today to determine what treatment is best for you.

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