Allergies are extremely common, affecting at least 1 in 5 Americans. If you’re among the ranks of allergy sufferers, you probably experience annoying and ongoing symptoms as your body reacts to common substances such as pollen or dust.
What are allergies?
Allergies occur when your immune system mistakenly views a harmless substance as threatening. This substance is known as an allergen, and when you eat it, inhale it, or get it on your skin, your immune system makes a protein that grabs onto it. Histamine and other chemicals are released into your blood, and this can cause a long list of annoying symptoms.
What are the signs of allergies?
Allergies can affect your nose and sinuses, your skin, and even your digestive system. Depending on the type of allergen that’s triggering your symptoms, you may experience the following:
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Red, watery eyes
In some cases, the symptoms of an allergy may be similar to what you experience when you have a cold. Itchy, watery eyes generally point to an allergy, but the main difference between the symptoms of a cold and an allergy is their duration. Allergy symptoms can persist as long as you’re exposed to the allergen, but colds don’t usually last longer than two weeks.
In severe cases, an allergy can cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. You may experience symptoms throughout your body, including the following:
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Hives and itching
- Tightness in your throat
- Tingling hands, feet, or lips
These symptoms can indicate an emergency, so you should immediately call 911.
What is the top treatment for allergies?
Home and lifestyle remedies are sometimes used to treat the symptoms of allergies. For example, rinsing out your sinuses with a salt and water solution can help alleviate congestion.
Limiting your exposure to an allergen, if this is possible, can also help. For example, if you’re allergic to pollen, you might try to avoid doing yard work on spring mornings, when pollen levels tend to be at their highest.
In addition, over-the-counter or prescription medications can be used to help treat allergy symptoms. They include the following:
- Antihistamines – come in forms such as liquids, tablets, and nasal sprays and help block histamines
- Decongestants – shrink swollen blood vessels and tissues in your nose, which helps relieve congestion
- Anticholinergic nasal allergy sprays – help reduce runny nose symptoms by decreasing secretions
- Steroid nasal sprays – reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, helping to relieve congestion
- Eye drops – help relieve red, itchy eyes
If your symptoms aren’t adequately relieved by medication, or if medication causes troublesome side effects, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy.
In this form of treatment, you’ll receive a very small amount of purified allergen extract in increasing doses, administered by injection or a tablet that’s placed under your tongue. After you reach what’s called a maintenance dose, you’ll receive your treatment less often. Over time, your body becomes accustomed to the allergen, and your symptoms should be milder and may possibly disappear entirely.
How do you know what you’re allergic to?
A skin prick test can be used to help determine the specific allergen – or allergens – that’s causing your symptoms. Your doctor may use a skin test or blood test, or perhaps both.
With skin testing, a tiny drop of a suspected allergen is pricked on the surface of your skin – usually on your back or forearm. It won’t hurt, but it will let the doctor see if you have redness and swelling at the site, which indicates that you’re allergic to the substance.
Where can I find the best treatments for allergies in the Dallas/Fort Worth area?
DFW Sinus Select offers compassionate care provided by board-certified otolaryngologists (doctors who specialize in issues of the ear, nose, and throat). We’ll use the latest in diagnostics to accurately identify the cause of your condition and suggest the most appropriate, effective treatment options.
For example, we offer allergen immunotherapy treatment for allergies to provide our patients with long-term relief from allergies and enable them to reduce or eliminate their use of allergy medications.
To receive treatment for allergies and their annoying symptoms, contact DFW Sinus Select today! We have 10 convenient locations throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area.