Common Questions About Allergies

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

An allergy is a type of hypersensitivity
reaction where patients become overly sensitive to something that’s benign in
the environment. So for example dogs or cats or pollens — they’re really nonharmful substances, but some people develop a hyperactivity or response to
this, and as a result their allergy cells or mast cells will release a variety of
different chemicals that cause several different types of symptoms — itchy, drippy, watery, nasal congestion, drainage in the back of the throat, things like that. What we know now about asthma is it’s a spectrum disease — there’s lots of
different flavors or phenotypes of asthma. However the most common form of asthma actually is allergic asthma. About 60% of patients with asthma have
allergic asthma, where it can be triggered by exposure to different
allergens — cats, dogs, dust, pollens, things of that nature can induce their asthma symptoms — so coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness. In order to help prevent your symptoms one area would be to employ what we call
“allergy avoidance measures.” So to try to avoid being outside on days when the pollen counts are elevated. When you come in from the outside, rinse everything, off change your clothes, and wash your hair. Frequently change your
air filters in your home. Drive with your car windows up, sunroof closed. And
also try to keep your house windows and doors shut. And limit your time outside
when we know pollens will be at their highest generally, which would be sunny days and windy days, as these pollens can blow throughout the air. Generally the
best time to be outside would be after a rainstorm, when the pollen has been
washed away. Here in the metro [Atlanta] area we actually had a very extended pollen season just due to our wonderful warm and humid environment, so we generally think that tree pollens bloom anywhere from late February up
through May. Grass pollens generally bloom in the summer time, so May and June. And then we hear about weed pollen — that generally blooms anywhere from the end of August through October. The most common and conventional method would be to do actually skin prick testing, where we poke with a sharp piece of plastic and introduce different allergens into the skin and measure your allergy cell
reactions. A second type of test we do is a blood test, which can be very useful,
but generally we would prefer to do skin testing, as it is more accurate. Allergy shots are unique in that they allow patients to over time become less sensitive to the things that they are allergic to. So let’s say you are allergic to oak pollen. We’d start off with a very low concentration, and over a period of weeks to months and build up. Once we get to a certain threshold, that’s when your immune system actually starts to become less responsive, and we continue you on that dose anywhere from a year to several years Step one is see your allergist, discuss with them and see if they have any specific recommendations. You’ll speak with your allergist and undergo an extensive history where they ask you multiple questions about your previous
exposures, your life, the symptoms that you’re having, and what previous
therapies you’ve tried. Afterward, they’ll examine you and see what types of signs and symptoms related to allergies you may have. We have medications
approved for ocular symptoms, nasal symptoms and asthma symptoms, as well as long-term treatment with allergy shots or immunotherapy to make patients less
allergic over time.

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