Asthma, hay fever, and other allergy-related conditions are common health problems, with as many as 50 million Americans reporting to have an allergy-related disease. Although some allergy-related conditions, such as mild hay fever, may not cause too much of a problem, there are some symptoms that should not be ignored.
Allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to what is normally a harmless substance. Substances that trigger these reactions are known as allergens. The immune system mistakes an allergen for a dangerous invader and produces antibodies to protect the body. These antibodies release a number of immune system chemicals, such as histamine, which can cause allergy symptoms.
The most common allergy triggers include:
- Environmental allergens – such as plant pollen (which may be seasonal or year-round), dust mites, and mold spores
- Food allergies – such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, soy and food additives
- Pet allergies – to the dander from their skin and fur
- Insect bite and sting allergies – such as from bees, wasps, mosquitoes, and fleas
- Medication allergies – such as to penicillin or penicillin-based antibiotics
- Latex – found in gloves most often
Allergies can cause a variety of symptoms that range from mild to potentially life-threatening when not treated promptly. The most common symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Red, watery, or swollen eyes
- Skin rash / hives
Asthma is a chronic condition that causes the airways to become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. Common asthma triggers include pollen, chemicals, smoke, dust mites, exercise, stress, and extreme weather changes. Symptoms of asthma can include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Mild symptoms may only last a few minutes, but more severe symptoms may last hours or even days. A severe asthma attack is a medical emergency and can be life threatening if not treated promptly.
What Allergy Symptoms Should I Be Concerned About?
In mild cases, some allergies may not require treatment unless symptoms become more bothersome. Avoiding potential triggers and using over-the-counter medications such as antihistamine can help to reduce mild symptoms. However, some allergies can cause more serious symptoms, which can lead to life-threatening complications if left untreated.
Some people with allergies may find that their allergies get worse over time or result in more serious reactions with each exposure, particularly with allergies to food, insect stings, or medication. A severe allergy can trigger a reaction known as anaphylaxis, which is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical treatment.
It is important to seek professional treatment for an allergy if you are concerned, or if your reactions appear to be getting more serious. The following signs and symptoms can indicate a more serious allergy requiring treatment.
Signs of a food allergy:
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, face, throat, or tongue
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Signs of an insect sting allergy:
- Itching or widespread hives/rash
- Large edema (area of swelling) at sting site
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Cough, wheezing, tight chest, or shortness of breath
Signs of medication allergies:
- Itchy skin or hives
- Skin rash
- Facial swelling
- Shortness of breath, wheezing
When to Seek Emergency Medical Treatment
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction to an allergen that can cause widespread dysfunction of the body systems. Anaphylaxis often develops very rapidly when exposed to an allergen. You should always call 911 and seek immediate emergency treatment if you or someone near you develops a severe reaction. The following are signs of anaphylaxis:
- Difficulty breathing, such as shallow, fast breathing
- Tightening of the airways and throat
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
- Rapid pulse
- Confusion and anxiety
- Widespread hives (skin rash)
- Blue skin or lips
- Clammy skin
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps
- Loss of consciousness
To treat a severe allergic reaction, you may require medications such as epinephrine – which reduces your body’s allergic response.
When To Visit An Allergy Doctor
If you have symptoms that may be related to allergies, it is important to seek appropriate medical care from a specialist. Allergy doctors offer comprehensive allergy care and are experienced in diagnosing and treating allergies, particularly those that affect the lungs and airways. You should visit an allergy doctor if your allergy symptoms are interfering with your normal day-to-day activities or quality of life, or if your condition is getting worse.
Some allergies may also affect your breathing or your ability to sleep, so it is important to be diagnosed and have a plan in place to manage allergies effectively and to prevent potentially life-threatening allergic reactions.
Diagnosing and Treating Allergies
Allergy diagnosis can be done through a skin test or blood test. A skin test involves exposing the skin to tiny amounts of different substances by scratching or pricking the skin. If a substance causes the skin to react with a rash or swelling, it is considered a positive reaction. An allergen-specific IgE antibody blood test measures the number of allergy-causing antibodies (immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies) in the bloodstream to evaluate sensitivity to a possible allergen.
If you have an allergy or asthma, an allergy doctor can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan, based on your exact diagnosis and symptoms. Treatments can include:
- Allergen avoidance and identifying allergy or asthma triggers
- Medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, quick-relief inhalers, and corticosteroids
- Immunotherapy, which allows the body to build up immunity to an allergen by safely introducing small amounts to the body over a period of time
- Emergency epinephrine shot to carry at all times to treat severe allergic reactions, should the need arise
- Education and guidance on dealing with a severe allergic reaction or asthma episode
If you suspect you have an allergy, don’t delay, seek advice from an allergy doctor as soon as possible.
Allergy Doctor in Weatherford, TX
If you are concerned about your allergy symptoms, seek specialist care from Lung and Sleep Specialists of North Texas. Our dedicated board-certified providers specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic conditions and take a holistic approach in treating your condition effectively. If you would like to find out more about our services and treatments, or schedule allergy testing, call us today at (817) 594-9993 or request an appointment online.