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What are allergies?

Allergies are one of the most common immune disorders diagnosed today. Your immune system regularly produces antibodies to help protect you from outside invaders like viruses and bacteria. When you have allergies, your immune system has identified an allergen as an “invader” that is harmful to your body, even though that may not be the case.

An allergic response happens when the body encounters a substance that it determines to be harmful. These substances are classified as allergens. The immune system responds by creating an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The resulting symptoms are your body's allergic response. Common allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Food
  • Drugs
  • Animal saliva and dander
  • Latex
  • Mold
  • Insects which sting or bite
How To Treat Allergies

What are the symptoms of allergies?

Most symptoms of an allergic response will simply make you feel uncomfortable, but some of them will make you just miserable. The most common allergy symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, or a rash or hives. More serious reactions may include swelling in your mouth or throat, or trouble breathing. This reaction is classified as anaphylaxis.

Diagnosis of Allergies

Diagnosis of allergies is a fairly simple process administered by our Ear, Nose, & Throat Specialist at South Florida ENT Associates. The process of diagnosis includes a physical exam, where we will ask you a a series of questions regarding your symptoms. Our ENT specialist will then review your personal medical history. Then there are tests that can be performed to determine what allergens may be causing your uncomfortable symptoms.

  • Skin Test. A skin test is performed by a doctor or nurse at South Florida ENT Associates. During the test, drops containing common allergens will be applied to the skin usually on the arm or the back. Then a small needle is used to pierce the skin and introduce the allergen under the epidermis. If a particular allergen is a trigger for you (i.e. if you're allergic), you will develop a reaction at that location.
  • Blood Test. Using a specific IgE blood testing, your ENT can measure the amount of allergen-causing substances in your blood. A blood sample will be sent to a laboratory to determine if you are sensitive to several possible allergens.

Treatment Options

There are three allergy treatment options: avoidance, medication to treat symptoms, and immunotherapy.

  • Step 1: know your allergy triggers. It isn't always possible to avoid our allergens completely. For example, if you know you're allergic to grass and tree pollen, it's nearly impossible to completely avoid them since you have to go outside each day. You can, however, limit your exposure to these triggers by not sitting in the grass, or being careful to wash your hands.
  • Step 2: medications. There are many over-the-counter, as well as prescription, allergy treatment options. Depending on your triggers, medications may be able to ease your symptoms enough to continue your everyday activities comfortably. These medications may include pills and/or liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops.
  • Step 3: immunotherapy. For sufferers of sever allergies, over-the-counter remedies may not provide enough relief to ease symptoms. Allergy immunotherapy involves regular injections of purified allergens in order to encourage your body to build up a resistance to these allergens. Allergic immunotherapy may also be administered by placing a tablet sublingually (under the tongue) until it dissolves. This type of immunotherapy is often used to treat pollen allergies.
  • Step 4: emergency epinephrine. If you have a severe allergy that results in anaphylaxis, it may be necessary for you to carry an emergency epinephrine shot (frequently referred to as an epi pen). This treatment is given for severe allergic reactions which occur until you can find emergency medical care. If your doctor believes you need to carry an epi pen, you can receive detailed instructions on how to treat allergies using this method of treatment.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies for Allergies

  • Nasal irrigation. Use of nasal irrigators, such as a neti-pot, can aid in the relief of sinus congestion and hay fever symptoms. By rinsing the sinuses with a saltwater solution, allergens are swept out of the nasal cavities along with mucus and other irritants. It is important to note that improper use of a nasal irrigation system can lead to infection, so it's necessary to learn how to treat allergies safely, using this method.
  • Air filtration. Common household allergens can be reduced by installing specific filtration systems in your home to eliminate irritants such as pet dander and dust mites. Vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate filter (HEPA), replacing carpet with hard flooring, washing sheets in hot water, and maintaining low levels of humidity in your home may also help alleviate symptoms.
  • Remove dampness. Allergy symptoms which result from mold may be relieved by reducing moisture in stereotypically damp areas in the home such as the bathroom and kitchen, using dehumidifiers and fans for ventilation, and repairing leaks both inside and outside your home.
  • Alternative medicine. There is some research which suggests that alternative therapies such as acupuncture may help to reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Your ENT can help you to determine which therapy or combination of therapies will best treat your allergy symptoms. Whether you suffer from seasonal hay fever or are allergic to more ever-present substances such as dust mites and mold, our ENT specialist can help you find the best path to feeling well again.

If you're experiencing symptoms of allergies, contact South Florida ENT Associates today to help you get back on the road to a healthy, happy life.

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