An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system produces antibodies in response to what’s considered a harmful substance. The antibodies then trigger the production of histamine and other chemicals, which results in the symptoms you experience. Specific allergy triggers may include airborne contaminants like pollen, dust mites, and mold. Other allergy sufferers experience reactions from peanut oil, shellfish, latex, and other materials, and certain medications that may include penicillin-based antibiotics.
What Are Allergy-Related Symptoms?
Allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe. Specific reactions will depend on what the source of the allergy is. Affecting anywhere from 40-60 million Americans, hay fever is one of the most common types of allergies likely to require attention from an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Symptoms experienced with hay fever may include:
A runny or stuffy nose
Red, watery, or swollen eyes
Mouth, nose, or eye itching
Increased fatigue from a lack of sufficient sleep
Some people with allergies also experience related asthma symptoms. Individuals sometimes have a severe type of allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
How Are Allergies Diagnosed?
An ear, nose, and throat specialist often diagnoses allergies by discussing symptoms. Patients may be asked to keep a journal or diary for a brief period of time to record when reactions occur to identify likely triggers. A skin test is sometimes done with allergies involving specific substances. ImmunoCAP testing (specific IgE blood testing) is a blood test that measures the amount of specific antibodies the immune system produces in response to allergies, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. If it’s suspected that symptoms may not be related to an allergy, diagnosis may include efforts to confirm or rule out other possible medical issues with similar symptoms.
What Are Treatment/Management Options?
A standard treatment for allergies is to avoid triggers. For example, patients with seasonal allergies might be advised to check daily pollen counts before going outside. Treatment may also involve:
Antihistamines, nasal sprays, and decongestants
Allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) to reduce sensitivity to certain allergens over time
Changing medication if allergies are related to drug reactions
Making an effort to improve immune system health with lifestyle changes
Carrying emergency epinephrine for times when reactions are severe
If home remedies and over-the-counter medications aren’t keeping your symptoms in check, you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for further evaluation. Allergies aren’t curable. However, many people are able to lead productive and healthy lives by being mindful of their known allergy triggers and avoiding exposure to allergens as much as possible. With severe reactions, seek medical assistance right away.