An allergy is an exaggerated response from your immune system to a normally harmless substance. When an allergen is encountered, antibodies – proteins designed to protect against foreign invaders – are produced. These trigger the release of chemicals called histamines, which are responsible for the telltale symptoms of allergies.
Allergies affect about one out of every five Americans. There are countless types of allergies; each type has its own set of symptoms.
Drug allergies are hard to predict. Often, individuals will be fine with a medication and then have a reaction the next time they take it.
Penicillin and antibiotics containing sulfa drugs are the most likely to cause an allergic reaction. The symptoms of a drug reaction can range from a mild skin reaction and itching to more severe wheezing, vomiting or anaphylaxis.
Albany ENT is able to determine if patients with a remote or questionable allergy to Penicillin truly have an allergy to this antibiotic. This testing can be incredibly informative and helpful for patients. If you are interested in Penicillin Allergy Testing, please contact our Allergy Department at (518) 701-2093.
While any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, there are eight foods that account for almost 90 percent of all food allergies:
- Tree nuts
The symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to life threatening. Mild reactions can be treated with antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Zyrtec. Severe reactions require the use of an epinephrine autoinjector .
While there are drugs available to treat the symptoms of an allergic reaction, the only way to prevent one is through strict avoidance of the problematic foods.
Insect Sting Allergies
An allergy to insect stings goes far beyond the pain associated with the stings themselves. Swelling, redness, flushing, hives, itching and the life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. Anaphylaxis typically includes trouble breathing, vomiting, low blood pressure, fainting and cardiac arrest. An immediate injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) is the only treatment for this reaction.
Honeybees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets and fire ants are the five known insects to cause an allergic reaction. Anyone who has experienced a reaction to a sting in the past is at risk of experiencing a worse reaction in the future.
Latex allergies occur when individuals come into contact with the protein from the sap of the rubber tree, known as natural rubber latex. This should not be confused with synthetic latex, which is made from chemicals and does not cause a reaction. Synthetic latex is used in latex house paint.
Medical and dental supplies commonly contain natural rubber latex. It can also be found in consumer products such as balloons, shoes, toys and clothing.
Latex allergies typically develop after previous exposure to latex. Common symptoms of an allergy include hives, itching, stuffy or runny nose, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Severe latex allergies can cause a life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction.
The best treatment for a latex allergy is avoidance.
Individuals with mold allergies experience immune system reactions whenever mold spores are inhaled. Symptoms are similar to those that occur with other types of allergies and include a stuffy or runny nose, itchy and/or watery eyes, wheezing, cough and postnasal drip. Some people might develop a rash or hives.
Mold allergies can trigger asthma attacks in those who are susceptible.
Molds are extremely common, both indoors and out. They are a type of fungus that thrives in moist, dark places. Not all molds cause allergic reactions, and not everybody who breathes in mold spores will experience symptoms.
Treating mold allergies involves the same medications you would use for dealing with pollen allergies. Antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays can all help relieve symptoms.
Allergies to dogs and cats are the most common pet allergy. What you are allergic to is not the animal itself, it is the allergens the animal produces. These allergens are usually found in the animal’s hair, dander, saliva and urine.
Common symptoms to these allergens are sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, facial pain, coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing, watery, red or itchy eyes and a skin rash or hives.
Pollen allergies occur during specific times of the year, generally during spring when trees and flowers bloom. They can also occur in the fall, when ragweed is at its worst.
There are steps you can take to reduce your allergy symptoms. Avoiding the allergy trigger is first and foremost. Stay indoors when pollen counts are at their peak, especially on dry, windy days. This usually occurs during the early morning and evening hours. Close windows and run the air conditioner. If you have to go outside, wear sunglasses and consider a dust mask. When driving, keep the windows rolled up and the AC running.
Over-the-counter medications can help relieve seasonal allergy symptoms. Antihistamines will help reduce sneezing, itching, watery eyes and runny nose. Popular choices include Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra and Alavert. Decongestants such as Sudafed and nasal sprays like Afrin help with nasal congestion.
Irrigating the nasal passages with a Neti pot or similar rinse can also prove beneficial. If medical treatment is ineffective, talk to your doctor about alternative options such as immunotherapy (allergy shots).
Mouse and Cockroach
Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to have infestations of mouse and cockroach in your house to be exposed to mouse or cockroach allergens. Primary culprits of exposure come from particles of feces from cockroach and from feces, urine, epithelium (skin cells) and dander from mice. These allergens become airborne as the particles dry.
Both mouse and cockroach contaminates can be found in fabric, foods, cardboard, carpeting and many other objects and materials that are brought into the home such as bedding, clothing and packages.
These allergens have been linked to triggering asthma in existing cases and, possibly, causing asthma in children.
Call Albany ENT & Allergy Services at (518) 701-2085 for more information or to schedule an appointment.