What are Allergies?
An allergy is an exaggerated immune response or reaction to a substance that is generally not harmful. But what does that mean?
How do Allergies work?
Our immune system is designed to fight viruses and bacteria that make us sick. Our immune system shouldn’t fight allergens (pollens, mites, molds and dander) because they are harmless.
If you have allergies, sometimes your system simply makes a mistake and your immune system fights harmless allergens.
- The chemicals, or histamines, released to fight the allergens, are what cause our allergy symptoms to occur. The part of the body that is contacted by the allergen plays a role in the symptoms that develop. For example:
- Allergens that are breathed in often cause a stuffy nose, itchy nose and throat, mucus production, cough, or wheezing
- Allergens that touch the eyes may cause itchy, watery, red, swollen eyes.
- Eating something you are allergic to can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, or a severe, life-threatening reaction
- Allergens that touch the skin can cause a skin rash, hives, itching, and blisters.
- Drug allergies usually involve the whole body and can lead to a variety of symptoms
Texas and Allergies
Thanks to our moderate climate in Texas, allergies can be a year round problem.
In spring and summer, many pollen producing plants are active.
- Mountain Cedar (one of the worst)
In the fall and winter months, non-plant allergens are active.
- House Dust Mites
- Pet Dander
Allergy Testing and Diagnosis
Finding out what you are allergic to is an important first step to effective allergy treatment. When combined with a detailed medical history, allergy testing can identify the specific things that trigger your allergic reactions.
Allergy testing can be done as a skin test or a blood test. The most common is by exposing your skin to variety of substances that can cause allergies and then monitoring your skins reaction. Positive reactions usually appear within 15 minutes. There is little or no pain, just the presence of red bumps that look and feel like mosquito bites.
Texas Allergy and Breathing Centers can help you live a life free of allergy discomfort.
Once we have tested and determined the specific allergens that give you problems, we will lead you on a three step treatment process:
Once identified, the cause of the problem may be avoided. In some cases, this is all that is needed to live allergy free.
Sometimes, more than just avoidance is needed. It is not practical to eliminate all of the pollens, molds and other allergy irritants in your life. In these cases medications are used to ease allergy symptoms and improve quality of life.
Our providers are experts in the latest safe and effective medications for treating allergies.
Sometimes, allergy treatment requires immunotherapy better known as allergy shots. This treatment involves introducing small amounts of purified extracts of the substances that are causing the allergic reactions. The amount is enough to stimulate your immune system, but not enough to cause a full allergic reaction.
Over time, your immune system will build up a tolerance to the allergen, and allergy symptoms will diminish. The length of time that a patient stays with immunotherapy treatment varies, but three to five years of semi-regular treatments is common.
Don’t let allergies interfere with your life. Come see our providers at Texas Allergy and Breathing Centers today.
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