Here you'll find some quick answers to some common questions about allergies...
What is an allergy and asthma specialist?
Healthcare providers who specialize in allergy and immunology, are trained in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of problems involving the immune system. These problems include reactions to usually harmless substances such as food, drugs, chemicals, insect stings, and pollens, and allergic conditions such as hay fever, asthma, hives, dermatitis, and eczema.
When treating a patient, an allergists/immunologist examines the patient's background and performs tests to identify the cause of the allergic or immunologic problem. The allergists/immunologist may then advise the patient to avoid certain substances, prescribe medications for allergy or asthma, or administer immunization injections, which increase the patient's tolerance to certain substances and reduce allergic symptoms.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance. These sensitizing substances, called allergens, may be inhaled, swallowed, or come in contact with the skin. When an allergen is absorbed into the body it triggers white blood cells to produce IgE antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to mast cells, causing release of potent chemical mediators such as histamine, causing typcal allergic symptoms.
What are common allergens?
Some common allergens are pollen, mold spores, dust mites, animal dander, feathers, foods, medications, and insect stings.
Who Develops Allergies?
Allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic status. While it's true that allergies are more common in children, they can occur for the first time at any age or, in some cases, recur after many years of remission.
Although the exact genetic factors are not yet understood, the tendency to allergies, as well as to allergic disease, is linked to heredity.
How do I know if I have allergies?
While there are many symptoms of allergy: watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, and a constant runny nose are among the most common. If you suspect you may be suffering from an allergies, contact an allergist/immunologist for a professional diagnosis and treatment plan.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction?
Hundreds or even thousands of ordinary substances can trigger allergic reactions. These are called "allergens." Among the most common are plant pollens, molds, household dust (dust mites), animal dander, industrial chemicals, foods, medicines and insect stings.
An allergic reaction may occur anywhere in the body, but usually appears in the skin, eyes, lining of the stomach, nose, sinuses, throat and lungs -- places where special immune system cells are stationed to fight off invaders that are inhaled, swallowed or come in contact with the skin.
What are allergy shots?
Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, is a process by which allergic material is administered in increasing concentrations, over a period of time, in order to decrease symptoms that would follow exposure to an allergen. Allergy shots help reduce hay fever symptoms in about 85% of people with allergic rhinitis.
For convenience, shots can be given in our office or at your own General practitioner's office - just ask us. We will soon also be introducing Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) which is an alternative way to treat allergies without injections. An allergist gives a patient small doses of an allergen under the tongue to boost tolerance to the substance and reduce symptoms. SLIT currently can only be used for certain environmental allergies.
What are factors that contribute to asthma attacks?
There are many different types of factors that can trigger an asthma attack. Allergens, viral infections, sinusitis, irritants such as strong odors, chalk dust, tobacco smoke, temperature changes, exercise, gastroesphageal reflux, chemical irritants, certain medications, and emotional anxiety all can contribute to frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
Why is it that exposure to an allergen can increase sensitivity and cause allergic reaction, yet repeated exposure to an allergen in allergy shots helps build ups immunity?
Regularly scheduled, repeated exposure to small amounts of an allergen (Shots or in some cases Sublinqual) can lead to immunity, whereas infrequent and erratic exposure does not confer immunity but increases the likelihood of producing allergen sensitization.
Irregular exposure to allergens can lead to the production of antibodies (called IgE-mediated antibodies). The presence of these antibodies, when exposed to an allergen can lead to an allergic reaction.
In allergy shots or immunotherapy, the allergen exposure is closely regulated and given on a scheduled basis. Small amounts of allergens are given over a period of time to build up to maintenance doses. This leads to the production of blocking antibodies (called IgG antibodies) and a decrease in the level of allergic or IgE-mediated antibodies.
The most common questions about Allergies
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