For most of your life, you’ve felt relieved not to have allergies. While other people are sniffling and coughing their way through spring, you’ve been able to breathe easily. But all of the sudden, you find yourself among the sneezers and snifflers. What’s happened?
It’s most likely allergies. Although you might not have had allergies as a kid or young adult, that doesn’t mean you’re free and clear. Allergies can develop at any point in your life. Here’s a closer look at why they happen and what you can do about them
Why Allergies Happen
When you have allergies, your immune system is overreacting to something that is commonly found in the environment and that is usually considered harmless. Allergens include pollen from trees and flowers, pet dander, dust, and mold spores. When your body comes into contact with an allergen, your immune system kicks into gear, producing antibodies to fight off the perceived attackers. You end up sniffling, sneezing, and coughing as a result. Depending on the allergen, you might also get a rash or have another type of physical symptom.
The exact reason why you might develop allergies as an adult after not having them at all isn’t really known. It could be that new or increased exposure to an allergen is what sets your immune system off. For example, if you move to a new state or new area and come into contact with a different type of pollen or with an increased amount of pollen, your immune system might respond by creating antibodies as a result of the increased exposure to that pollen. The same thing can occur if you adopt a pet such as a cat or dog as an adult and never lived with an animal before.
Coping with New Allergies as an Adult
Although developing new allergies in your adulthood can be frustrating, the good news is that there are several ways to cope with them and to minimize the impact your allergies have on your life. One of the first things you want to do is confirm that you are actually allergic to the suspected allergen.
An allergy test performed by your doctor will help you see what substances you’re allergic to, from pollen and pet dander, to mold and dust mites. Depending on the situation, your doctor can test for allergies by placing a small amount of suspected allergens on your skin and looking at the reaction. Another option is to take a blood sample, sending it to lab and having the lab expose the blood to certain allergens to see how it reacts.
Once you know what the allergen is, finding ways to cope with allergies or avoid allergens becomes easier. For example, if you find out you’re allergic to cats, you can steer clear of them. If you know that you’re allergic to certain types of tree pollen, you can limit the time you spend outdoors when the pollen count is high.
Taking over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines can also help you cope with an allergy or allergic reaction.
For many people, allergies aren’t a big deal. They might get a few sniffles every so often or need to leave a home quickly if there’s a cat present. But if you are allergic to multiple things or if your allergies keep you from living your life fully, you might want a form of treatment that’s a little more effective and long-lasting than your typical antihistamine.
Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, is often recommended to patients who have very severe allergies. During immunotherapy, you receive injections that contain the substance you are allergic to. How frequently you receive the injections depends on the severity of your allergies. You might need twice-a-week treatments or you might get by with a weekly injection. Usually, you will receive the injections weekly or twice a week for a few months, at which point you might be able to decrease their frequency to once a month for the next few years.
Although committing to a series of weekly injections can seem like a lot, the time commitment can be well worth it if you have severe allergies. Many people are able to stop taking allergy medications and see a significant improvement in their allergy symptoms after undergoing immunotherapy.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience in helping patients with allergies and sinus problems 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 the adult-onset allergies, allergy testing and immunotherapy, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.