See Hay Fever
Allergies to pets are caused by protein found in the animal’s dander (dead skin cells), saliva or urine. For birds, many people are allergic to the excreta. The proteins from pets are carried on microscopic particles through the air. When inhaled, they trigger reactions in allergic people. As all dogs and cats possess these proteins, none of them is allergy-free. Though some breeds are considered more allergy-friendly, it is likely because they are groomed more frequently, a process that removes much of the dander. It is a common misconception that people are allergic to a dog or cat’s hair, and it is falsely believed that an animal that sheds less will not cause a reaction.
Pollen is the male fertilizing agent of flowering plants, trees, grasses and weeds. It is also a major allergen that causes symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever)*. Weather conditions affect pollen levels. For instance, wind and humidity may affect pollen counts. Because pollen are small, light and dry, they can be easily spread by wind, which keeps pollen airborne and carries it over long distances. When the air is humid, such as during or after it rains, pollen becomes damp and heavy with moisture, keeping it still and on the ground. Allergy symptoms are often minimal on days that are rainy, cloudy or windless, because pollen does not move about during these conditions. Hot, dry and windy weather signals greater pollen and mold distribution and therefore, increased allergy symptoms.
Pollen from plants with bright flowers, such as roses, usually does not trigger allergies. These large, waxy pollen are carried from plant to plant by bees and other insects. On the other hand, many trees, grasses and low-growing weeds have small, light, dry pollen that are well-suited for dissemination by wind currents. These are the pollens that trigger allergy symptoms.
Pruritus is the medical term for “itching”. While almost everyone has experienced itchy skin, people with skin allergies such as atopic dermatitis (eczema)* are more prone to develop pruritus. Symptoms can range from being mildly irritating to disabling. The term for this very serious form is intractable pruritus.
A PFT is a special computer designed test to measure the force of air exhaled and inhaled into the lungs. There are three measurements that are especially important when measuring lung functions. The Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) measures the total amount of air, in liters, in the lungs. The Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1) measures the amount of air expelled in the first second the air is forced out of your lungs, this is usually restricted in asthmatics. The last measurement, and perhaps the most important in detecting asthma, is the Forced Expiratory Flow (FEF 25-75). This assesses the amount of air in the small airways, or bronchioles, which are usually narrowed in asthma.
Rhinitis may be allergic or non-allergic. Allergic Rhinitis is caused by allergens in the air, which are usually harmless but can cause problems in allergic people. Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis often are a runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy eyes, nose, throat and ears. Allergic Rhinitis puts you at risk for developing Sinusitis* because allergies can cause swelling of the sinuses and nasal mucous linings. People with Non-Allergic Rhinitis usually just have a stuffy nose. It may be caused by irritants such as smoke, changes in barometric pressure or temperature or overuse of over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays.
Sinuses are empty cavities within your cheek bones, around your eyes and behind your nose. Their main job is to warm, moisten and filter air in your nasal cavity. If your stuffy nose and cough last longer than one or two weeks, you may have more than a cold. Rhinosinusitis is a swelling of one or more of your nasal sinuses and nasal passages. It is often called sinusitis or a sinus infection. You may experience pressure around your nose – eyes or forehead, a stuffy nose, thick, discolored nasal drainage, bad-tasting post-nasal drip, cough, head congestion, ear fullness or a headache. Symptoms may also include a toothache, tiredness and, occasionally, a fever.
Acute sinusitis refers to sinusitis symptoms that last less than four weeks. Most acute sinusitis starts as a regular cold from the common cold viruses and then becomes a bacterial infection. Chronic sinusitis is when symptoms last three months or longer. The cause of chronic sinusitis is believed to be a combination of swelling and infection. Recurrent sinusitis occurs when three or more acute episodes happen in a year.
Allergic Rhinitis* puts you at risk for developing sinusitis because allergies can cause swelling of the sinuses and nasal mucous linings. This swelling prevents the sinus cavities from draining, and increases your chances of developing secondary bacterial sinusitis. If you test positive for allergies, your allergist can prescribe appropriate medications to control your allergies, possibly reducing your risk of developing an infection. In rare cases, immune problems that harm your ability to fight common infections may present with chronic or recurrent sinusitis. *see Hay Fever
Problems with the structure of your nose – such as narrow drainage passages, tumors or a shifted nasal septum (the bone and cartilage that separate the right from the left nostrils) can also cause sinusitis. Surgery is sometimes needed to correct these problems. Many patients with recurring or chronic sinusitis have more than one factor that puts them at risk of infection. So, an accurate diagnosis is essential.
There are many types of itchy, swelling and rash-like skin conditions, however not all are symptoms of an allergy. Allergic skin conditions include allergic contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema) and urticaria (hives).