When you have allergies, your immune system reacts to something that is usually harmless. Allergies can develop throughout your life. You might develop some as a small child or you might not experience an allergic reaction to anything until you’re fully grown. Understanding the variety of allergy types and what you can do about them can help you know what to do to cope with or treat the allergies you have.
Pollen allergies might be one of the most commonly occurring allergy types. Usually, people who are allergic to pollen develop symptoms on a seasonal basis, such as in the spring or fall when certain flowers are in bloom. The type of pollen people are allergic to can differ. Some are allergic to tree pollen, others to grass or weed pollen.
A pollen allergy typically causes symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis. People who are allergic to pollen often sneeze, have a runny nose, itchy eyes and congestion. Pollen allergies can also be associated with chronic sinus infections, especially if they aren’t managed.
About 30 percent of people with allergies in the U.S. have a pet allergy, usually meaning they are allergic to dogs or cats. People who have other types of allergies are more likely to be allergic to pets. Although it’s often assumed that people who are allergic to pets are allergic to their fur, the reality is that it’s the saliva, dander (skin) or urine of the pet that they are allergic to. It’s more common for people to be allergic to cats than to dogs.
Symptoms of a pet allergy usually include a stuffy nose and red, irritated eyes. In some cases, people with a pet allergy develop breathing problems, such as coughing and wheezing, after inhaling the allergens. It’s also possible for a person to develop a rash or other skin irritation after exposure to a pet.
Sometimes people develop an allergy to natural rubber, or latex. People who have had a lot of surgeries or who work in settings where latex gloves are worn are more likely to develop an allergy to the material. It’s also possible for someone to have an irritation or sensitivity to latex, but not actually have an allergic reaction to it.
Symptoms of a latex allergy can range from mild to severe. In cases of a mild reaction, someone might have some irritation or swelling in the area of contact after exposure to something that contains latex. In more severe cases, asthma symptoms or allergic rhinitis can occur. In the most severe cases, a person might go into anaphylactic shock.
Food allergies are relatively rare, affecting just 4 percent of adults. They are more common in children but can also develop later in life. Like latex, a person can have an intolerance or sensitivity to a certain food but they might not actually be allergic to it. For example, someone with lactose intolerance might not have a milk allergy, even though he or she should probably avoid drinking milk.
A small group of foods is responsible for the majority of all allergic reaction. That group includes eggs, nuts, milk, shellfish, soy, wheat, peanuts and fish. If an allergic person is exposed to a food allergen, signs of the reaction can occur on the skin, the respiratory system, or in the gastrointestinal tract. In the most severe cases, anaphylaxis can occur.
Like food allergies, drug allergies are relatively rare and only affect a small number of people. Sometimes, people might have an adverse reaction to a medication, but that’s not the same thing as an allergy, which is the immune system reacting to the drug.
Signs of an allergic reaction to a drug might include skin irritation, allergic rhinitis or anaphylaxis.
Mold is all around. People who have signs of allergic rhinitis all throughout the year might actually have a mold allergy rather than an allergy to pollen. Mold can also trigger an asthma attack.
Although it’s common to associate an allergic reaction to an insect with a bite or sting, the bug doesn’t have to come in contact with you to trigger an allergy. Some people are allergic to cockroaches or dust mites. The waste produced by these bugs can cause asthma and signs of allergic rhinitis in people who are allergic.
Diagnosing and Treating Allergies
The first step to treating allergies is pinpointing the thing (or things) a person is allergic to. During an allergy test, a doctor will swab a variety of allergens on the skin, then look to see if any sort of reaction occurs.
Treating allergies can include avoiding the allergen, taking prescription or over-the-counter medicine to reduce the reaction, or immunotherapy. During immunotherapy, a person receives a series of shots which contain the allergen over the course of several years. Exposure to the allergen should help reduce the reaction a person has.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience in helping patients with sinus problems and allergies in the Hudson Valley. A board certified facial plastic surgeon and board certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To learn more about treatment for allergies, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.