A stuffy, sneezy nose. Rapid-fire sneezes where you can’t catch your breath. Itchy eyes. Welcome to allergy season. For those who suffer from allergies, even the smallest joys in life – from smelling a newly blossoming rose to playing with a kitten – can result in a cacophony of physical responses. But why do we have allergies? Here is what you need to know about why we have allergies, and what we can do to treat them.

Space Invaders

Our immune systems protect us by fighting against invading viruses, bacteria, and other foreign substances. When a harmful foreign invader is detected, our immune system triggers an immunoresponse at which time antibodies form and attach themselves to the harmful cells while alerting others nearby cells to do the same. However, if you have allergies, expect a different scenario; one where these signals get mixed up to create an allergic reaction.

An Array of Responses

Allergic reactions vary based on the type of allergy involved as well as manner of exposure. The most severe cases can trigger a response known as anaphylaxis while milder cases result in a temporary period of sneezing and a runny nose. An example of a mild allergy is hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, which causes sneezing and a stuffy nose and itchy, watery eyes. Atopic dermatitis is a skin allergy that results in itchiness, reddish skin that peels or flakes. Certain allergies – especially for those who have food allergies or reactions to certain medications or bee stings – can result in hives, difficulty breathing, anaphylaxis and, in an the most extreme cases – death.

Diagnosing Allergies

To effectively diagnose allergies, doctors perform screening like skin or blood tests to identify the harmful allergens. In a skin test, the doctor will prick the patient’s skin, exposing the vulnerable pinpricks to small amounts of proteins found in potential allergens. Any reaction to the allergen confirms the results. Blood tests called ImmunoCAP, or radioallergosorbent test (RAST) also may be performed – they measure the amount of allergy-causing antibodies in a patient’s blood sample. Whichever test your doctor recommends, you can expect more than you thought, as your doctor will test for everything from grasses and animals to dust mites and roach dust.

Treating Allergies

Several methods exist to treat allergies, the most obvious being allergen avoidance. However, since avoiding dust or pollen may prove to be near impossible, many rely on over-the-counter medications can lessen an allergic response. Prescription medications, to include tablets, sprays and eyedrops, can increase your resistance to suspected allergens. Immunotherapy is a popular and easy way of increasing your resistance to allergens. As a part of immunotherapy, your allergist will develop a serum based on the outcome of your allergy test; he will continue to inject that serum over the course of weeks or months until your resistance builds. Epinephrine pens are highly encouraged for anyone diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy. (Note:  even if the pen is used immediately following an allergen-causing exposure, a trip to the emergency room is recommended to ensure the effects taper off after the pen’s effects wear off.)

If You Suffer from Allergies

Because allergies can occur at any stage in life and can affect your breathing and ability to sleep, it’s important to be diagnosed by a medical professional who can devise and help you follow a plan to manage them. If you or a loved one suffers from allergies, contact the professionals at Lung and Sleep Specialists of North Texas. You may request an appointment online, or call them today at (817) 594-9993 today! Call today to breathe easy tomorrow!

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