How Do I Find Out My Allergies?
Over 40 million Americans suffer from allergies, a condition in which the body reacts to plant pollen, pollution, and particular foods, in a way most other people do not. The symptoms of an allergy can be quite broad, including not only the familiar sneezing, runny nose, nasal stuffiness, and itchy, watery eyes of "hayfever," but chronic "sinus" problems, postnasal drip, head congestion, frequent "colds," recurring ear infections, chronic cough, and asthma. Even stomach and intestinal problems, many skin rashes, chronic headaches, and fatigue can be allergy symptoms. And allergies can appear at any age. Some show up in childhood and then fade, only to reappear in adulthood. For some, the onset of symptoms may occur, or get worse, when such factors as emotional stress, fatigue, infection, hormonal changes, air pollution, and weather alter. These "triggers" add to what is called the "total allergic load," or the number of allergens your body can handle at any given time. By avoiding the contributing factors, you may be able to lighten your allergic load enough to ease your symptoms.
Where To Turn For Relief
Because allergies have such a wide range of symptoms - symptoms which can "masquerade" as another medical problem entirely - allergy sufferers may go from doctor's office to doctor's office trying to get an accurate diagnosis. The Doctors at The Head and Neck Center are trained to recognize allergies in whatever form they take. So if you do indeed have an allergy to food, pollen, pollution or dust, they can tell you what the cause is and how to treat it successfully. (If you don't have an allergy, they can tell you that, too.)
How Your Allergy Is Diagnosed
Allergy diagnosis is completed in two stages: a physical examination and allergy history (when and where symptoms occur, whether you have pets, whether other family members have allergies, etc. ), followed by allergy testing. Allergy testing may be done with either a traditional skin test technique known as an intradermal or by a laboratory blood test is known as In-Vitro testing. The intradermal involves a series of tiny injections of test substances (antigens), done with a very fine needle on your arm. This results in bumps that look like mosquito bites. Certain larger bumps (or wheals) indicate how allergic you are to the injected substance. The wheels are carefully measured and these measurements are used to determine the dosage for desensitization to that allergen (allergy-causing substance). In Vitro testing uses a small sample of your blood to measure the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) then present. Your body defends you against allergens (dust, pollen and other inhale substances) by manufacturing a specific kind of IgE to fight off the inhalant you are allergic to. A large amount of a particular type of IgE indicates an allergy to that substance. (Your blood may carry a lot of the IgE designed to combat ragweed pollen, for instance.
How Your Allergy Is Treated
Treatment will depend upon the type of allergy you have and its severity. Inhalant allergies can be treated simply by avoiding the offending substance - the dust or mold or pollen. And antihistamines can offer additional relief when the allergens can't be completely avoided. Food allergies are more complicated to treat. An individualized testing and treatment plan will be created for you to relieve your symptoms. But, in general, keeping a food diary and noting symptoms after consuming certain foods will offer a good indication of the allergy's presence. Avoiding the suspected allergy-causing food, and then reintroducing it will confirm the diagnosis. Controlling a food allergy often involves eliminating the offending food. Allergy injections, or immunotherapy, offer another form of treatment that can be very effective for some. You will receive a personalized series of allergen injections, initially given weekly. This helps your body build immunity to the substance to which you are allergic. Maintenance shots are given until you have a few seasons without symptoms.