All You Need to Know About Allergies
11
October

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /


Allergies are the body’s exuberant response
to something that’s actually harmless and really anything that the body gets exposed
to can cause an allergy. In terms of what people are allergic to, most
commonly, medications, those can either be inhaled, ingested or by vane; foods are common
allergens as well; you can be allergic to things that your skin comes into contact with;
as well as aeroallergens, which are allergens that are in the environment, most commonly
thought of as pollens during the growing seasons or cat dander, dust mites, mold. So, stinging insects can cause allergy as
well. Symptoms of Allergies The symptoms are going to depend on what part
of the body is getting exposed. If your skin is getting exposed to an allergen,
the most common symptoms is going to be a rash and you can get a rash that looks more
like eczema or poison ivy or rashes like hives. If you’re breathing in an allergen, then the
most common symptoms are going to be nasal, so runny, itchy nose, congestion, sneezing,
post nasal drip. Allergens that are coming in through the nose
can also affect the lungs and can flare underlying conditions like asthma and COPD. In terms of the eyes, they’re very exposed
to aeroallergens and so itchy, watery eyes are common symptoms when exposed to allergens
in the environment. And then when allergens are getting inside
the body, such as food or drink, medications, then the symptoms can range anywhere from
hives or rash all the way to anaphylaxis, where the whole body gets involved or at least
more than one body system. And those reactions can be very serious and
even life-threatening. How to Diagnose Allergies The most important thing is actually going
to be the clinical history. The clues that the patient gives a physician
about what happened, when it happened, has it happened more than once and in what context. That’s really where we oftentimes make our
diagnoses. And then that clinical history guides us to
testing in order to confirm. So the major test that we use in allergy is
going to be skin testing where a little drop is put on the skin and poked through and then
blood testing where we look for the IGE antibody against a specific allergen. There’s also intradermal testing where some
allergen is injected under the skin, so that has a little bit of a higher sensitivity,
in terms of picking up maybe more subtle allergies. And tests are available, blood tests and skin
tests, for all the different kinds of allergens we look at, so aeroallergens in the environment,
for food allergies, for stinging insect allergies. The only thing that doesn’t have validated
testing is going to be drug allergy, except for penicillin. Treatment Options for Allergies The first step will be helping to identify
what somebody is allergic to and then once we identify we talk about different ways to
avoid that item. There are ways to make somebody temporally
unallergic, if you are talking about a drug allergy and then they can get through a course
of a medication. We can also do allergy shots for environmental
allergens. And then in experimental phase right now is
a desensitization for foods. And so by gradually increasing the amount
of food that’s ingested, patients can then tolerate food allergens. If somebody cannot avoid it and we cannot
make them temporally or permanently unallergic, then we usually try to treat the symptoms
so depending on where the symptom is the treatment will vary by trying to really make patients
as comfortable as possible with allergens they are not able to avoid. Visit njhealth.org/allergy for more information
on what you can do to treat your allergies.


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