More than 50 million people in the United States are estimated to suffer from allergic rhinitis, making it one of the most common chronic diseases in both adults and children.
Allergies occur when your immune system mistakenly reacts to something you eat, inhale, inject, or touch. This reaction may include coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a scratchy throat. Left untreated, allergies can result in chronic sinus infections, strep throat, asthma, eye infections, nasal polyps, chronic ear infections, and/or migraine headaches.
It is common for those with allergies to have more than one allergy. The most common indoor/outdoor environmental allergy triggers are pollen from trees, grass, and weeds; mold spores; dust mites; cockroaches; and dander from cats, dogs, and rodents. Unfortunately, many patients remain undiagnosed and unaware of the cause of their allergies – instead, they simply treat their symptoms with over-the-counter medications.
Allergy testing allows your healthcare provider to pinpoint your allergic sensitivities, which is the first step in treating allergies.
There are several ways to test for allergies. One of the most common is skin testing, which is considered the gold standard when it comes to allergy testing. This pain-free, needle-free test is recommended as the first line of allergy testing because it is safe, accurate, sensitive, quick, and cost-effective. It is also one of the least-invasive allergy tests.
Skin testing involves placing a tiny amount of up to 78 different allergens directly onto your skin. During this in-office test, you will be monitored for 15-20 minutes after application to watch for any type of allergic reaction. If you test positive for particular allergens with a skin test, the results are about 90% accurate, while negative results are more than 95% accurate.
It is important that a patient’s environmental history be taken into account when considering the results of a positive skin allergy test. For instance, if test results indicate a dust mite allergy but not a pet dander allergy, and there is a pet in the home, you will probably not need to avoid contact with your pet.
Allergy Treatment Options
Once your healthcare provider has identified what you are allergic to, appropriate allergy interventions will be recommended and discussed. This might include allergen avoidance, drug therapy to prevent or control your allergy symptoms, and/or allergen immunotherapy:
Allergen avoidance consists of taking special precautions to minimize exposure to the identified allergen. Doing this may improve a patient’s quality of life by up to 50%.
For example, if you tested positive for a pollen allergy, there are behavioral modifications you can make during pollen season to prevent or control your allergy symptoms and decrease your need for medication. This includes opting for indoor activities instead of outdoor activities in peak allergy season, when the pollen count is high.
Bathing and washing your hair every night before bed can also help to remove any pollen that may have settled on you during the day. Your family members, roommate, or other members of the household should do the same as well in order to assist you in avoiding being exposed to pollen. Change your clothes after being outdoors, and encourage the people in your home to leave their shoes at the door.
Drug therapy involves the use of specific medications to reduce your chances of having an immune-system response in your body. This can prevent an allergic response from occurring, or it can reduce its severity once it has begun. Medications may be over-the-counter or prescription medicine.
Immunotherapy is the only allergy treatment that targets the cause of allergies and also alters the natural course of the body’s response. It involves exposing your body to gradually increasing levels of a specific allergen to help desensitize your body to it.
This is done with allergy shots (injections) or liquid drops placed under the tongue (sublingual). The aim of immunotherapy is to reduce your immune system’s response to an allergen over time, ultimately ending your allergy symptoms altogether.
Allergen immunotherapy is conducted under the supervision of a doctor. Not all patients are good candidates for immunotherapy; ask your healthcare provider if it’s right for you.
Treating Allergies Can Change Your Life
Most people who aren’t properly treating their allergy symptoms aren’t aware of how much better they can feel once their condition is properly diagnosed and controlled. Some allergy treatments can stop allergies in their tracks – and even prevent future allergic reactions. In particular, when young children are properly diagnosed and treated for their allergies, this can successfully thwart the progression of allergies and also prevent them from developing into asthma.
Don’t simply mask your allergy symptoms with over-the-counter medications, which may or may not provide adequate relief. Schedule a medical evaluation, including allergy testing, to help identify the allergy treatment that will work best for you. Contact the allergy treatment professionals at NIVA Health by calling your Local NIVA Health Office. You can also request an appointment online now, or sign up for a complimentary consultation.