What is an allergy?
An allergy is an overreaction of the body's immune system to a substance called an allergen, which is normally harmless. An allergic reaction occurs when the body's immune system responds to an allergen as if it were a foreign invader. Continued exposure to the allergen can result in physical symptoms that range from mild to life threatening.
- What are symptoms of allergy?
- Hay Fever (Sneezing, runny/stuffy nose, itchy throat)
- Allergic Conjunctivitis (Red, itchy, watery eyes)
What are common allergens?
Allergens can be introduced into the body in various ways including inhaling, contact with skin or eyes, digesting, and stinging insects. Common allergens include:
- Pollen (trees and grass)
- Animal hair or dander
- Dust mites
Testing for allergies
Testing for allergies is important in order to confirm whether environmental allergy is present and identify specific allergens and degree of sensitivity. This information will determine the best way to treat any confirmed allergies.
Skin (prick) testing - Allergy skin testing dates back to 1914 and is considered a safe, reliable, and effective indicator of allergy. Skin testing can be scheduled in either office location.
In-vitro (blood) testing - Testing blood for allergic disease was developed in the 1970s and is also an accurate and effective means of testing allergies. Blood testing takes longer to get results, may be more expensive, and isn't always covered by insurance. It is usually reserved for patients who cannot have skin testing.
How will the test results impact treatment?
There are three primary ways to treat positive allergy results:
- Avoid allergens when possible (animals, dust mite controls)
- Proper use of medications during allergy seasons
- Immunotherapy (allergy shots, sub-lingual) if medical therapy fails
Allergy immunotherapy is the process of gradually reducing a patient's sensitivity to an allergen. This is the one treatment with the possibility of cure; antihistamine medications only manage symptoms until the next exposure. Immunotherapy can be performed by injections (shots) or, in some patients, the placement of allergens under the tongue (sublingual immunotherapy).
- Requires 3-5 year commitment
- FDA approved standard treament
- Requires weekly office visits for about a year and then visits can be extended
- Allergy shots are covered by some health insurance companies. Coverage varies with each plan. Please call your insurance carrier to inquire about your specific coverage.
- Requires 3-5 year commitment
- Used in Europe for over 25 years and is convenient, safe, and effective in the US
- Antigen (allergy material) is placed under tongue for a few minutes each day and can be done at home
- There is not yet an FDA approved medication for delivering multiple allergens by SLIT. For patients with specific needs, we offer an option of purchasing multiple antigen sublingual treatment.
Additional Resources: The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy
Jen, Missi, Jenn
Our allergy staff is dedicated to providing the best care and treatment plan for their patients. If you have any questions, please call our office today!