Allergists treat two of the nation’s most common chronic health problems – allergies and asthma. Although symptoms may not always be severe, allergies and asthma are diseases and should be treated that way. Many people with allergies and asthma simply don’t realize how much better they can feel.

Allergists are specially trained to help you take control of your allergies and asthma, so you can live the life you want. They find the source of your symptoms and provide the most effective treatment options. Don’t let allergies or asthma hold you back from the things you love. Find expert care with an allergist.

Here are some of the conditions allergists treat:​

Asthma and Frequent Cough

Asthma is a disease that affects the airways in your lungs, making them inflamed and swollen. The inflammation makes your airways more likely to be bothered by allergens or things like smoke, stress, exercise or cold air. Airway muscle spasms block the flow of air to your lungs, causing symptoms that may include difficulty breathing, a tight feeling in your chest, coughing and wheezing. Sometimes your only symptom is a chronic cough, especially at night, after you exercise or when you are laughing. Sometimes asthma has only mild symptoms, but it can be life-threatening if you have an attack and stop breathing.

Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)

Hay fever is a common condition that causes symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, watery eyes and itching of your nose, eyes or the roof of your mouth. Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal or perennial, and each has different symptoms:

  • Seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms occur in spring, summer and/or early fall. They are usually caused by allergies to pollens from trees, grasses or weeds or to airborne mold spores.
  • People with perennial allergic rhinitis experience symptoms year-round. It is generally caused by sensitivity to house dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches and/or mold spores. Underlying or hidden food allergies rarely cause perennial nasal symptoms.
Eye Allergies

Allergic reactions in your eyes, called eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis, result in itching, redness and burning. They are often caused by the same allergy triggers that cause hay fever and can result in many of the same symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling and a stuffy nose. While many people treat their nasal allergy symptoms, they often ignore eye symptoms which can be treated effectively with medication or immunotherapy.

Skin Allergies

Contact dermatitis, eczema and hives are skin reactions that can be caused by allergens and other irritants. Sometimes, your reaction can happen quickly. Other reactions may take hours or days, as in poison ivy. Common allergens can be medicines, insect stings, foods, animals and chemicals used at home or work. Your skin allergies may be worse under stress.

Food Allergies

An allergic reaction to food can cause mild to serious symptoms. Symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, hives or other skin rashes, wheezing and coughing, headaches, runny or stuffy nose and sneezing. In extreme cases, food allergy can trigger a severe and life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Some mild symptoms may be caused by a food sensitivity rather than an allergic reaction. An allergist can help determine if it is a true allergic reaction. Shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergies in adults. Milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergies in children.

Anaphylaxis

An allergist can help you determine if you have a severe allergy – one that might result in anaphylaxis, and help you identify triggers. Anaphylaxis is a rare allergic reaction that affects many parts of your body at the same time. If not treated quickly, it can be fatal. The trigger may be an insect sting, a food (such as peanuts), the latex in rubber products or a medication. The most dangerous symptoms of anaphylaxis affect your breathing and/or cardiovascular system (heart and blood pressure). Symptoms can include some or all of the following:

  • Hives, itchiness and redness on the skin, lips, eyelids or other areas of the body
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of your tongue, throat, nose and lips
  • Nausea, stomach cramping and vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness and fainting or loss of consciousness, which can lead to shock and heart failure

Frequently these symptoms start suddenly without warning and rapidly get worse. At the first sign of anaphylaxis, you should get help immediately, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. If you have been prescribed epinephrine, you should use your epinephrine auto injector.

Sinus infections

Sinus infections, also called sinusitis, are common in people with nasal allergies such as hay fever. The constant stuffy and runny nose can inflame your nasal passages and make them swell. Symptoms include a runny nose with a thick discharge, cough and occasionally pain in your forehead, around and in between your eyes, in your upper jaw, cheeks and teeth. In some cases, sinusitis can be chronic and cause several infections a year. If you have asthma, you are more likely to have chronic sinus infections which can complicate your disease and make your symptoms more severe.

Citation:  https://acaai.org/allergies/allergy-treatment/when-see-allergist/what-does-allergist-treat?

aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments

During the winter, dry indoor air is often the cause of chapped lips, dry skin and irritated sinus passages. The moisture from a humidifier can soothe dry sinus passages. However, if you have indoor allergies, dust and mold from the humidifier may cause more harm than good.

The number one indoor allergen is the dust mite. Dust mites grow best where there is moisture. Moisturizing the air with a humidifier creates the perfect home for dust mites to live and prosper. Keep the humidity level in your house between 40-50%. You can monitor the levels with a hygrometer.

Mold spores can also be an issue for people with mold allergies. It is important to clean and change the filter in the humidifier on a regular basis so mold does not grow in the unit and blow into the home. Read the manufacturer instructions for tips on cleaning your humidifier.

If possible, use distilled or demineralized water in your humidifier. The higher level of minerals in tap water can increase bacteria growth, resulting in a white dust and additional irritation to your sinuses.

If you have indoor allergies, check with your allergist / immunologist to see if using a humidifier can help you and your sinuses survive winter.

Citation: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/humidifiers-and-indoor-allergies

By Michael Blaiss, MD

ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS about winter is that there’s no pollen in the air. All the leaves have fallen off the trees, and the grass is brown and may even be covered with snow, allowing sufferers of hay fever a reprieve from their nasal symptoms. So, you may be asking, “Why am I having constant sneezing, and my nose is itching and running during the winter months? How can that be?”

Unfortunately, for many people, the winter can be a terrible time for allergies. But since winter is “cold” season, how do you know if your nasal problems are from an allergy or a virus?

Here are some ways to help distinguish whether you have a virus or an allergy:

  • Viruses may be associated with fever, while allergies never result in a fever.
  • Viruses produce colored mucus from the nose, while allergies cause clear drainage.
  • Viruses typically don’t have any eye symptoms, while allergies may produce watery, itchy eyes.
  • Viruses may lead to sore throats and body aches, while these are not seen with allergies.
  • Viruses are short-lived, usually lasting up to two weeks, while allergies may last throughout the season or longer.

If your symptoms suggest that you are miserable from a winter allergy, what could be the cause? According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, these are some of the most likely culprits:

  • House dust mites: These pests are barely visible to the naked eye and grow in carpet, bedding and upholstered furniture. In the winter, they die, and their decomposed body parts and feces can trigger allergy symptoms.
  • Animal dander: Your cat or dog can cause year-round allergy symptoms, but these may be more noticeable in the winter when you spend more time indoors.
  • Mold spores: Like pets, molds can lead to allergy troubles all year, but especially in the cold, wet winter months. The most common locations to observe mold growth are your bathrooms and basement.

What can you do about these allergy triggers? The first step is avoidance. For house dust mites, removing the carpet from bedroom floor, washing all the bedding with hot water – at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit – removing dust collectors from the bedroom and putting mite-proof encasings on the mattress and box springs can help reduce symptoms. To avoid pet dander, always keep your pet out of your bedroom. Some studies suggest that frequent bathing of your pet is beneficial in keeping dander down to a minimum. Remember, there is no such thing is a “hypoallergenic” cat or dog. Any area where mold is growing needs to be scrubbed thoroughly, and be sure to control any moisture or water source that’s causing mold development. In a basement with mold problems, a dehumidifier can be effective.

Second, medication may be used to minimize your nasal misery. Over-the-counter medications, such as non-sedating antihistamines, like Claritin and Zyrtec, and intranasal corticosteroids, like Flonase and Nasacort, can be beneficial. These treatments don’t cure your allergies and need to be taken regularly to control the nasal symptoms. Depending on the severity of your allergies, these remedies may be enough to improve your quality of life.

What if avoidance and medication don’t work well enough, you’re having side effects from the medication or you’re just tired of using medications all the time? What can you do? If this is the case, it’s time to seek medical help from a board-certified allergist. You’ll probably require allergy testing to determine exactly what’s causing your symptoms. You may find after speaking with your allergist that you’re a candidate for allergen immunotherapy. This is a type of vaccination where you’re given small amounts of what you’re allergic to by a tablet under the tongue (house dust mites) or by injections (pets, molds, house dust mites), over a three- to five-year period. Allergen immunotherapy has been shown not only to reduce symptoms, but also to help get rid of your allergies permanently.

Citation:  https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2019-01-11/winter-allergies-how-to-cope?

 

Hives – https://acaai.org/allergies/types-allergies/hives-urticaria

“Hives, also known as urticaria, affects about 20 percent of people at some time during their lives. It can be triggered by many substances or situations and usually starts as an itchy patch of skin that turns into swollen red welts. — ACAAI News https://acaai.org/news/

Overview

If you’ve had red or skin-colored bumps that appeared and disappeared quickly, then it’s unlikely to be simple bug bites. The skin rash could be hives, and the itching from hives may range from mild to severe. Scratching, alcoholic beverages, exercise and emotional stress may worsen the itching. If you think you might have hives, then it’s best to speak with an allergist.

Symptoms

Symptoms can last anywhere from minutes to months – or even years.

While they resemble bug bites, hives (also known as urticaria) are different in several ways:

  • Hives can appear on any area of the body; they may change shape, move around, disappear and reappear over short periods of time.
  • The bumps – red or skin-colored “wheals” with clear edges – usually appear suddenly and go away just as quickly.
  • Pressing the center of a red hive makes it turn white – a process called “blanching.”

There are two types of hives – short-lived (acute) and long-term (chronic). Neither is typically life-threatening, though any swelling in the throat or any other symptom that restricts breathing requires immediate emergency care.

Hives Triggers

  • Some food (especially peanuts, eggs, nuts and shellfish)
  • Medications, such as antibiotics (especially penicillin and sulfa), aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Insect stings or bites
  • Physical stimuli, such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise or sun exposure
  • Latex
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and strep throat
  • Viral infections, including the common cold, infectious mononucleosis and hepatitis
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Some plants, such as poison oak and poison ivy

Management and Treatment

Researchers have identified many – but not all – of the factors that can cause hives. These include food and other substances you take, such as medications. Some people develop hives just by touching certain items. Some illnesses also cause hives. Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Some food (especially peanuts, eggs, nuts and shellfish)
  • Medications, such as antibiotics (especially penicillin and sulfa), aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Insect stings or bites
  • Physical stimuli such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise or sun exposure
  • Latex
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and strep throat
  • Viral infections, including the common cold, infectious mononucleosis and hepatitis
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Some plants, such as poison oak and poison ivy

Antihistamines – available either over the counter or by prescription – are a frequently recommended treatment for hives. They work by blocking the effect of histamine, a chemical in the skin that can cause allergy symptoms, including welts. Low-sedating or nonsedating antihistamines are preferred. They are effective and long-lasting (may be taken once a day) and have few side effects. Your allergist may recommend a combination of two or three antihistamines to treat your hives, along with cold compresses or anti-itch salves to ease the symptoms.

Severe episodes of urticaria may require temporary treatment with prednisone, a similar corticosteroid medication or an immune modulator, which can reduce the severity of the symptoms.

If your reaction involves swelling of your tongue or lips, or you have trouble breathing, your allergist may prescribe an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector for you to keep on hand at all times. These can be early symptoms of anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction that impairs breathing and can send the body into shock. The only treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrine. If you develop hives and your injector is not nearby – or if using the auto-injector doesn’t cause the symptoms to immediately improve – go to an emergency room immediately. You should also go to the emergency room after using an auto-injector.

If the cause of hives can be identified, the best treatment is to avoid the trigger or eliminate it:

  • Foods: Don’t eat foods that have been identified to cause your symptoms.
  • Rubbing or scratching: Avoid harsh soaps. Frequent baths may reduce itching and scratching – beneficial because itching and scratching can make the hives feel worse.
  • Constant pressure: Avoid tight clothing. Pressure hives can be relieved by wearing loose-fitting clothes.
  • Temperature: If you develop hives when exposed to cold, do not swim alone in cold water and always carry an epinephrine auto-injector. Avoid exposure to cold air and use a scarf around your nose and mouth in cold weather. If you must be out in the cold, wear warm clothing. 
  • Sun exposure: Wear protective clothing; apply sunblock.
  • Medications: Notify your physician or pharmacist immediately if you suspect that a specific medication is causing your hives.

Citation: ACAAI News https://acaai.org/news/