What are allergies?
Allergies are your immune system’s exaggerated response to a substance that is deemed a threat but is actually harmless. When this substance is inhaled, swallowed or comes into contact with your skin, your immune system defends your body by releasing chemicals that attack the invader. These chemicals cause unpleasant symptoms such as runny nose, itchiness, watery eyes, rashes or hives, etc.
What causes allergies?
There are hundreds of substances that can trigger allergies. They are called allergens and include pollen from plants and trees, mold, dust mites, animal dander, chemicals, food and medications.
Who develops allergies?
Allergies can affect people of all ages, races and lifestyles. They are most common in children, but can occur at any age. There does appear to be a genetic predisposition toward developing allergies; a child who has a parent suffering from allergies is more likely to experience them.
Can allergies be prevented?
Certain types of allergies can be prevented by avoiding contact with the allergen. If you are allergic to a specific food, simply eliminate it from your diet. Other allergens are difficult to avoid, though steps can be taken to limit exposure. These include staying indoors during peak pollen times, purchasing allergy-safe bedding and investing in a dehumidifier to reduce moisture.
How are allergies tested?
The first step in testing for allergies is a physical examination and review of your medical history. Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms. The allergen is identified through skin or blood testing.
How are allergies treated?
Allergies can be treated through prevention, medication or immunotherapy. Prevention involves avoiding contact with the allergen that triggers your symptoms. Medications include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, eye drops and corticosteroids. Those who are unable to avoid allergy triggers and do not find relief from medications may be candidates for immunotherapy.
This long-term treatment plan involves introducing small amounts of allergen into your body over a period of time in order to build up immunity. Immunotherapy may be administered in the form of injections (allergy shots) or orally (droplets under the tongue).
Call North Alabama ENT Associates at (256) 536-9300 for more information or to schedule an appointment.