From the Foundation for Allergy Care & Treatment
What is an allergy?
Allergy is the body’s abnormal response to some foreign substance. In the case of a stuffy nose, it is usually a pollen, mold, animal dander, or some element in house dust. You can also be allergic to foods or chemicals. Pollens cause problems in springtime (trees and grasses) or late summer (ragweed) whereas house dust and mold may be a year-round problem.
What is an allergen?
An allergen is the name for any of these offending substances. Anything to which you become allergic is an allergen.
what are the most common allergies?
The most common allergic problems are hay fever, asthma, and eczema.
What is hay fever?
“Hay fever” is really misnamed since it does not involve hay or fever. It was named because of nasal symptoms developed during hay season. Common symptoms include sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, itchy or watery eyes. “Hay fever” occurs most frequently during the spring, summer, or fall when trees, grasses, and weeds produce pollen. One of the principal offenders in the eastern U.S. is the ragweed plant which produces pollen from late summer until frost.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a condition which affects breathing and the lungs. The patient may wheeze, cough, or be short of breath.
What is eczema?
Eczema is an inflammation of the skin. It can take the form of red patches, crusts and scales. The affected area generally itches. The condition generally occurs from contact with the allergen or from eating certain foods.
Why does my nose run?
If you have an allergy to one or more of these substances, your body releases histamine, which causes congestion and excess watery mucus production, similar to what happens when you catch a common cold.
Are drugs the answer?
Drug treatment has long been a cornerstone of allergy treatment. Antihistamines and/or decongestants for the nose and bronchodilators for asthma may counteract the symptoms, but don't always control the underlying disease.
What does an antihistamine do?
Antihistamine drugs help to prevent the symptoms by blocking the effect of histamine.
What does a decongestant do?
Decongestants help by shrinking the swollen nasal tissues so as to open the breathing passages. While some antihistamines create sleepiness as a side effect, decongestants create stimulation. Therefore, combinations of these two are often the best solution to your allergy problem.
What about allergy shots?
Allergy shots are the most specific treatment available. Results of allergy skin tests or blood tests are used to make up treatment vials of substances to which you are allergic. Your allergy injection stimulates the formation of blocking antibodies in your blood stream, which prevent your allergic reaction.
Is there a standard dosage for everyone?
No. Your ENT allergy doctor will start you at a safe dosage level which is needed to combat your specific allergens.
How long will I have to take shots?
The injections can bring significant relief within a few months. They are usually continued for about 3 years. In some cases the treatment must be continued indefinitely.
More Allergy Facts...
How successful is the treatment?
Over 80% of the patients who receive regular shots experience significant improvement or complete relief of their symptoms.
Are allergies inherited?
Specific allergies themselves are not inherited, however the tendency to develop allergies is a genetic trait. The more allergic one’s family is, the more likely one is to develop allergies.
Are allergies common?
It is estimated that 45 million Americans now suffer from some form of allergy.
At what age is a person most likely to develop an allergy?
It is most common for allergies to begin in childhood, but it is quite possible for allergic symptoms to make their first appearance at any age. You’re never too old to develop an allergy.
Should an otolaryngologist treat my allergies?
An otolaryngologist specializes in the ear, nose, and throat. Many of the problems he or she encounters are probably due directly or indirectly to allergy. The ENT allergy doctor is able to follow the patient’s progress with specialized examinations and treatment. One method he or she might use would be skin end-point titration, a modern and accurate form of skin testing. Some skin allergies may require treatment by a dermatologist. Your ENT allergy doctor will work with you to make sure you receive the proper treatment.