Feel Better. Live Better. See an Allergist / Immunologist: Tips to Remember

Allergist / immunologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma and other diseases of the immune system.

Allergists practicing in the United States have completed medical school, at least three years of residency in pediatrics or internal medicine, then at least two years of specialized training in allergy and immunology. To be board certified, they must pass an examination and regularly attend continuing medical education programs in allergy and immunology. Many people with untreated allergic symptoms aren’t aware of how much better they can feel once their symptoms are properly diagnosed and managed by an allergist / immunologist.

An allergist’s approach is personal. Your allergist typically asks about your medical history, does a physical examination and performs specific allergy and/or breathing tests. The results guide a personalized treatment plan which typically includes measures to avoid or eliminate triggers, recommendations for medications and education to help you take an active role in treating your disease.

Causes of Allergies 
Allergies are the result of a chain reaction that starts in the immune system. Your immune system controls how your body defends itself. For instance, if you have an allergy to pollen, your immune system identifies pollen as an invader or allergen. Your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.

Common Allergic Diseases Allergic rhinitis may be seasonal or year-round. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) typically occurs in the spring, summer or fall. Symptoms include sneezing, stuffy or runny nose and itching in the nose, eyes or on the roof of the mouth. When the symptoms are year-round, they may be caused by exposure to indoor allergens such as dust mites, indoor molds or pets.

Allergy tests give very specific information about what you are and are not allergic to. For instance, if you wheeze when you’re at home and don’t know why, you don’t have to get rid of your cat if your allergy testing shows you are allergic to dust mites but not cats. With this information, you and your allergist can develop a treatment plan to manage or even get rid of your symptoms.

Asthma is an allergic disease that causes frequent episodes of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness. It is common for people with asthma to also suffer from allergies, so your allergist may conduct thorough allergy and breathing tests to find the causes of your asthma. Studies have shown that care by an allergist can decrease the number of asthma flare-ups and the need for emergency care. You and your allergist can work together to ensure that your asthma is well-managed, so that you can participate in normal activities.

Allergists are helpful in treating recurring sinus and ear infections. People with asthma are more prone to sinus infections (rhinosinusitis) which can, in turn, make the asthma worse. Sinus infections are also common in people with allergic rhinitis. Although young children are expected to have more ear infections, it is important to monitor children with very frequent or severe infections. This is because the most serious immunodeficiencies usually become apparent during the first years of life.

If you have a food allergy, even a tiny amount of the food you’re allergic to may cause a reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction are generally seen on the skin or involve the stomach and intestines. These include swelling, hives, eczema (itchy, red scaly rash), vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping or a stomach ache. Allergy tests performed by an allergist can determine which foods, if any, are triggering the symptoms.

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a skin allergy causing a red, dry, itchy rash on the face, elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. Atopic dermatitis is treatable but not curable. Urticaria (hives) are red, itchy, swollen areas of the skin that can range in size and appear anywhere on your body and seem to move around. Angioedema is a swelling of the deeper layers of the skin such as the eyelids, tongue or lips. An allergist can determine which allergic skin condition you have and help you take steps to treat it.

Anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis) is a serious allergic reaction that happens very quickly. Without immediate treatment – an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and expert care – anaphylaxis can be fatal. Follow-up care by an allergist is essential.

Many people don’t realize they have an allergy until they suffer an anaphylactic reaction. It is usually caused by foods, medicine, latex or insects, and at times without an obvious cause. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives, flushing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, throat tightness, nausea and dizziness or faintness.

Immune system problems may cause repeated infections such as bronchitis, ear infections or pneumonia. People with inherited immune system disorders (primary immunodeficiency disorders) are less able to fight infections and are more susceptible to complications. While these disorders are rare, there are about 100 different types, making diagnosis and treatment by an allergist / immunologist very important.

Feel Better. Live Better.
The right care can make the difference between suffering with an allergic disease and feeling better. By visiting an allergist, you can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works and educational information to help you manage your disease.

Posted with permission from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI)
http://www.aaaai.org/home.aspx

Outdoor Allergens: Tips to Remember

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as hay fever, affects millions of people worldwide. Symptoms include sneezing, stuffiness, a runny nose and itchiness in your nose, the roof of your mouth, throat, eyes or ears. These allergic reactions are most commonly caused by pollen and mold spores in the air, which start a chain reaction in your immune system.

Your immune system controls how your body defends itself.

For instance, if you have an allergy to pollen, the immune system identifies pollen as an invader or allergen. Your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.

Pollen
 Pollen are tiny grains needed to fertilize many kinds of plants. Pollen from plants with colorful flowers, like roses, usually do not cause allergies. These plants rely on insects to transport the pollen for fertilization. On the other hand, many plants have flowers, which produce powdery pollen that are easily spread by wind.

These culprits cause allergy symptoms.

Each plant has a period of pollination that does not vary much from year to year. However, the weather can affect the amount of pollen in the air at any time. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is often caused by tree pollen in the early spring. During the late spring and early summer, grass pollen often cause symptoms. Late summer and fall hay fever is caused by weed pollen. In warmer places, pollination can be year-round.

Molds
 Molds are tiny fungi related to mushrooms but without stems, roots or leaves. Molds can be almost anywhere, including soil, plants and rotting wood. Their spores float in the air, much like pollen. Outdoor mold spores begin to increase as temperatures rise in the spring. In the United States, mold spores reach their peak in July in warmer states and October in the colder states. They can be found year-round in the South and on the West Coast.

Pollen and Mold Levels

Pollen and mold counts measure the amount of allergens present in the air. There is a difference between a pollen count and a pollen forecast. Pollen counts reflect real-time conditions. Pollen and mold forecasts are often based on past pollen data and general weather forecasts.

The National Allergy Bureau™ (NAB™) is the nation’s only pollen and mold counting network certified by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). The NAB compiles pollen and mold levels from certified stations across the nation. You can find counts for your geographic region at www.aaaai.org/nab.

The relationship between pollen and mold levels and your allergic rhinitis symptoms can be complex. Your symptoms may be affected by recent contact with other allergens, the amount of pollen exposure and your sensitivity to pollen and mold.

Effects of Weather and Location

Hay fever symptoms are often less prominent on rainy, cloudy or windless days because pollen does not move around during these conditions. Pollen tends to travel more with hot, dry and windy weather, which can increase your allergy symptoms.

Some people think that moving to another area of the country may help to lessen their symptoms. However, many types of pollen (especially grasses) and molds are common to most plant zones, so moving to escape your allergies is not recommended. Also, you are likely to find new allergens to react to in new environments.

Treatment

If your seasonal symptoms are making you miserable, an allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, can help.

Your allergist has the background and experience to determine which allergens, if any, are causing your symptoms. This information will form the basis of a treatment plan to help you feel better. Your personalized plan will include steps to avoid contact with allergens. Your physician may also talk to you about medications for temporary relief.

If your symptoms continue or if you have them for many months of the year, your allergist may recommend allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots). This treatment involves receiving regular injections given in gradually increasing doses. This helps your immune system become more resistant to the specific allergen and lessen your symptoms as well as the need for medications.

There are also simple steps you can take to limit your exposure to the pollen or molds that cause your symptoms:

• Keep your windows closed at night and if possible, use air conditioning, which cleans, cools and dries the air.
• Try to stay indoors when the pollen or mold counts are high. If your symptoms are severe, wear a pollen mask if long periods of exposure are unavoidable. When you return indoors, take a shower, shampoo your hair and change clothes.
• Avoid being responsible for mowing lawns or raking leaves. This stirs up pollen and molds. Also avoid hanging sheets or clothes outside to dry.
• When traveling by car, keep your windows closed.
• Take any medications as prescribed.
  

Healthy Tips.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is the medical term for the condition commonly referred to as hay fever.
• Seasonal allergic rhinitis causes sneezing, stuffiness, a runny nose and itchiness in your nose, the roof of your mouth, throat, eyes or ears.
• Avoiding exposure during times of high pollen and mold counts will help ease symptoms.
• The majority of hay fever medications work best if started before a pollen season begins.
• Allergy shots can often provide long-term relief of hay fever symptoms.

Feel Better. Live Better.

An allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, is a pediatrician or internist with at least two additional years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, immune deficiencies and other immunologic diseases.

By visiting the office of an allergist, you can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works and educational information to help you manage your disease and feel better.

Posted with permission from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI)
http://www.aaaai.org/home.aspx