Allergies develops when your body mistakes something that is harmless as foreign and creates an antibody immune response. This immune response activates chemicals such as histamine to be released which can cause numerous symptoms. For some patients this response is mild, and for others it can be very severe and lead to decreased quality of life and/or serious allergic reactions.
In addition to environmental allergens, patients may also develop allergy to latex, foods, medication, or insect bites.
Allergy symptoms can affect the nose, eyes, ears, throat, skin, lungs, or the lining of the stomach and can be dependent on which substance triggers your allergies. Common symptoms of allergies may include:
Eyes, Ears, Nose symptoms
– Itchy, watery eyes
– Stuffy nose (congestion) or runny nose
– Tingling/Itchiness in your mouth or throat
– Lip/tongue swelling
– Itchy skin
– Skin redness or swelling
– Difficulty breathing
– Chest tightness
– Worsening asthma symptoms such as coughing or wheezing
– Abdominal cramps
– Chest tightness
– Nausea/Vomiting or diarrhea
Symptoms of anaphylaxis may start with mild symptoms like runny nose or a rash and then progress rapidly to more serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, tightness of the throat, nausea/vomiting, hives, swelling, dizziness, fainting, and in some patients a “feeling of impending doom.”
If you or someone you see is exhibiting symptoms of anaphylaxis, it is important to use an epinephrine auto-injector immediately and call 911.
Blood tests can be used to check for antibodies that are circulating against specific allergens in the body, including food or environmental allergens.
Allergy testing can also be completed through skin prick testing, intradermal skin testing, and patch testing.
Treatment for allergies comes in many forms, depending on symptoms and severity.
Once it is determined that you have an allergy to something, it is important to take measures to try to avoid or limit contact with your allergens.
For example, if you are allergic to pollen you can:
Shower before going to bed to remove any pollen from your skin or hair
Use a HEPA filter and use air conditioning in the house versus open windows.
Wear a mask if you plan to do any yardwork or need to be outside.
Stay indoors on high pollen count days or days where it is dry and windy.
Some examples of classes of medications to treat allergies include:
Antihistamines work to reduce levels of histamine circulating in your body that contribute towards allergic symptoms.
Nasal steroids help to reduce inflammation and swelling in the nasal passageways.
Nasal saline sprays can also be helpful in treating nasal congestion by thinning and loosening mucus.
Decongestants, either in a pill or nasal spray form, can help with allergic symptoms and congestion. However, nasal decongestant sprays should only be used for a short period of time as instructed by your provider.
Immunotherapy comes in two forms: