An allergen is a usually harmless substance capable of triggering a response that starts in the immune system and results in an allergic reaction. For instance, if you have an allergy to pollen, your immune system* identifies pollen as an invader or allergen. The immune system responds by releasing chemicals that typically cause symptoms in the nose, throat, eyes, ears, skin or roof of the mouth. In addition to pollen, other common allergens include: dust mites, animal dander, mold, medications, insect venom and various foods.
Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma*. Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same. However, allergic asthma is triggered by inhaling allergens. An allergen is a typically harmless substance such as: dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold. If you are allergic to a substance, this allergen triggers a response starting in the immune system. Through a complex reaction, these allergens then cause the passages in the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen. This results in coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.
Allergic Conjunctivitis (ocular allergy*) is the most common allergy affecting the eyes. Many people with allergies experience allergic conjunctivitis when their eyes come in contact with an allergen. The allergen triggers the release of histamine. This typically results in itching, redness, burning or tearing of the conjunctivae (the thin membranes lining the eyelids and the exposed surface of the eyes). Allergic conjunctivitis can be seasonal or perennial. The seasonal version is much more common. It is related to exposure to airborne allergens such as grass, tree and weed pollens or molds. The perennial form persists throughout the year and is usually triggered by dust mites, animal dander or molds. Irritants such as cigarette smoke, strong odors or fumes are not necessarily allergens, but they can make symptoms worse.
Sometimes called Immunologist, are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma and immune deficiency disorders. Allergists in the United States have completed medical school, at least three years of residency in pediatrics or internal medicine, then at least two years of specialized training in allergy and immunology. To be Board- Certified, they must pass an examination given by the American Board of Allergy* and Immunology. To maintain their board-certification, allergists must regularly attend continuing medical education programs in allergy and immunology. After completing medical school and graduating with a medical degree, physicians undergo three years of training in internal medicine or pediatrics and pass the exam of either the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) or the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). Make certain you are treated by an expert.
An allergy is a chronic condition involving an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance called an allergen*. If you have an allergy, your immune system views the allergen as an invader and a chain reaction is initiated. White blood cells of the immune system produce IgE antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to special cells called mast cells, causing a release of potent chemicals such as histamine. These chemicals cause symptoms such as: itching (in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes), sneezing, stuffy nose (congestion), runny nose, tearing eyes, dark circles under the eyes.
Allergy testing, also known as “skin, prick or blood testing”, is a method for determining to what substances a person is allergic. Skin allergy testing is the most common, reliable and relatively painless form of allergy testing. Skin tests are done by placing little drops of each suspected allergen on your forearm then lightly pricking the skin with a plastic applicator to break the top layer; also sometimes small needles actually inject the allergen directly under the skin. A timer is set for 10 minutes and if the skin is itchy, red or has welts it is scored on a 0-4 scale to determine which allergen you are allergic to.
Blood tests are generally used when skin tests might be unsafe or won’t work, such as if you are taking certain medications or have a skin condition that may interfere with skin testing. There are methods of allergy testing that the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) believes are not useful or effective. These tests are performed by non-allergy practitioners or people who call themselves healthcare professionals but lack formal training and national board-certification in the field of allergy and immunology
Anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis) is a serious allergic response that often involves swelling, urticaria*, lowered blood pressure and in severe cases, shock. If anaphylactic shock isn’t treated immediately, it can be fatal. A major difference between anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions is that anaphylaxis typically involves more than one system of the body. Symptoms usually start within 5 to 30 minutes of coming into contact with an allergen to which an individual is allergic. In some cases, however, it may take more than an hour to notice anaphylactic symptoms. Warning signs may include:
* Red rash (usually itchy and may have welts/hives)
* Swollen throat or swollen areas of the body
* Passing out
* Chest tightness
* Trouble breathing
* Hoarse voice
* Trouble swallowing
* Stomach cramping
* Pale or red color to the face and body
Anaphylaxis may occur in people with allergies to foods, insect stings, medications or latex. If you are at risk for anaphylaxis, be prepared with an anaphylaxis action plan and by carrying auto-injectable epinephrine*.
Antihistamines are the most widely used medications to relieve or prevent symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever)*. Some antihistamines may also be used to treat chronic urticaria (hives)*. These medications reduce symptoms by preventing the effects of histamine—a chemical substance produced by the body during an allergic reaction. Antihistamines are available as a liquid, tablet or nasal spray. Different antihistamines are available either by prescription or over-the-counter (OTC). Newer antihistamines prescribed by your allergist / immunologist are less likely to have side effects such as drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation or difficulty urinating.