Your genetic makeup is the beginning point of the allergy chain reaction. It determines how your immune system works to produce antibodies and defend itself against harmful substances or organisms like bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, the immune system sometimes mistakes a typically harmless substance for a dangerous one and starts the defense process that causes an allergy. The source of your allergy is called an allergen.
When your immune system recognizes an allergen, it stimulates cells to release chemicals that produce changes like increased blood flow, tissue swelling, and mucous membrane irritation.
Common Allergy Triggers 2
- Foods - unpleasant or dangerous immune system reactions after a certain food is eaten. Top 8 food allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish
- Insects - biting, stinging, and non-biting (cockroaches, dust mites)
- Inhalants – pollens, pet dander, dust mites, mold & fungus spores, among others
- Contact - skin rash caused by contact with a specific substance such as latex, plants, soap, cosmetics, and jewelry, among others
- Medication reactions – reaction due to an actual immune system response is rare, but possible. Most medication related issues are called “non-allergic reactions” or “adverse reactions” but still can have serious consequences.
- Anaphylaxis - a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death. It typically causes more than one of the following: an itchy rash, throat or tongue swelling, shortness of breath, vomiting, lightheadedness and low blood pressure.
Common Allergy Symptoms 3
No two people react exactly the same to an allergen, but there are common reactions typical of many allergens. Some of these are itchiness, reddened skin, mucous membrane irritation and swelling, sneezing, watery eyes, congestion, increased heart rate, vomiting,
A common group of symptoms is grouped under the term rhinitis, including inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes, sneezing and runny and/or itchy nose caused by irritation and congestion in the nasal passages. There are two types: allergic rhinitis and non-allergic rhinitis.
Allergic Rhinitis: This condition occurs when the body's immune system over-responds to specific, non-infectious particles such as plant pollens, molds, dust mites, animal hair, industrial chemicals (including tobacco smoke), plus some foods, medicines, and insect venom. When this occurs, sneezing, congestion and itchy, watery eyes usually result.
Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis:
- Late March or early April: Sensitivity to tree pollen produces symptoms.
- Late summer or spring: Hayfever occurs during this time. Hypersensitivity to ragweed, not hay, is the primary cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis
- October and November: An allergic reaction to mold spores occurs as a consequence of falling leaves
Perennial Allergic Rhinitis: This type occurs year-round and can result from sensitivity to pet hair, carpeting, upholstery, and mold on wallpaper, houseplants, and other locations inside.
Non-Allergic Rhinitis: This form of rhinitis bypasses the immune system and is not due to an allergic reaction. Symptoms are triggered by environmental irritants like cigarette smoke, pollutants, strong odors, alcoholic beverages, and cold temperature. Other causes may include blockages in the nose, deviated septum, infections, and over-use of medications such as decongestants.
diagnosing & testing for allergies
Diagnosing an allergy is more complicated than simply administering a skin prick test or taking a blood sample and sending patients away with a prescription. Two key steps in the process of allergy diagnosis are the medical history and allergy test selection.
Your History of Symptoms
A detailed clinical history is essential for diagnosing an allergy correctly.
- First, patients should give their own account of their symptoms
- Then, structured questions are necessary for precise information on previous allergic diseases like childhood eczema, hay fever, and asthma
- Additional topics to cover are frequency, severity, duration, and seasonal occurrence of symptoms, including triggering factors, life threatening events, and success of avoidance measures
- Details about diet, food exclusion trials and intolerance to medications, preservatives and additives are also important clues
- Family history can provide insights
- Home, school/work, and outdoor environmental risk factors should be identified and discussed
- Also required is current information on past and current treatments and medications.
The details revealed in the medical history plus a physical exam will help determine the specific allergens to use for the next step.
We use the skin prick testing method to screen for the most common allergens found in the Washington DC area. Skin testing allows us to determine exactly what you are sensitive to, as well as the relative severity of your reaction.
The test results will enable Dr. Khanna to design a treatment plan tailored to your individual allergies, symptoms and lifestyle.
Treating your allergies
Different approaches to treating allergies allow for the most successful outcome. Your personal treatment plan may include one or several methods.
Avoidance of Triggers to reduce reactions
- Staying indoors during peak pollen times.
- Removing carpet and fabrics that trap dust mites and molds
- Eliminating leaks and using dehumidifiers
- Wearing protective masks during unavoidable exposures
Medication to control symptoms
- Mucus reducer
- Nasal rinses
Immunotherapy to build resistance in the immune system
- Traditional injection therapy
- Convenient self-administered drops under the tongue (S.L.I.T.) (sublingual immunotherapy)
Your allergy and rhinology experts at Capitol Sinus & Allergy will identify your allergies and help you get them under control!
Find Out if You Are a Candidate for this Advanced and Remarkable Procedure.
Contact us to schedule an evaluation, testing and treatment.
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