What Is an Allergy and How Is It Treated?

Allergy causes are seemingly everywhere. They can include airborne allergens (such as mold, pollen, animal dander, or dust mites), foods (most common with peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, or milk), insect stings, medications, or other substances (like latex). When you have allergies, your immune system reacts by producing antibodies that identify a particular allergen as harmful, even though it isn’t. When you come into contact with that allergen, your system’s reaction can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system. Over 50 million Americans (1 in 6) experience some type of allergy.

Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include sneezing, itchy eyes, nose, or throat, runny or stuffy nose, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue, or face, or a rash. In the most extreme cases, it may trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Those with a family history of asthma or allergies, who have asthma or another allergic condition themselves, or children may be more likely to develop an allergy.

The first step in treating an allergy is an accurate diagnosis by an immunologist or allergist, usually involving either skin pricks and/or blood tests. This decides whether symptoms are caused by an allergy and if so, what triggers it as accurately as possible. The diagnosis will target the appropriate treatment or clinical intervention to allow avoidance of the trigger.

Treatment options may involve managing symptoms through the use of antihistamine creams, pills, steroid creams, inhalers, or auto-injectors. For allergens related to food, drugs, venom, latex, or pet dander, avoidance is a possible approach. In cases of acute tongue swelling or anaphylaxis, rescue medications may be necessary. Another avenue is immunotherapy, where allergy shots containing a controlled amount of a specific allergen help stimulate the immune system gradually, building tolerance over time. It’s crucial to be aware of potential interactions during allergen avoidance, such as cross-reactions between latex and fruits/vegetables or tree pollen and fresh fruits.

Although seasonal allergies are common, the truth is that allergies can affect us at any time throughout the year. At Peoria ENT, our team of allergy & asthma specialists are dedicated to providing you with the highest quality of care. Our highly-trained providers have completed several years of specialized education and will take the time to diagnose your symptoms and discover the best treatment option.

For more information, please visit our website at peoriaent.com or call (309) 589-5900.