Provided by Hedberg Allergy & Asthma
Spring allergy season is here – although for many, allergies never end. We asked the doctors at Hedberg Allergy & Asthma, with offices in Fayetteville and Rogers, for the 411 on allergy season – what causes an allergic flare-up and what can be done to treat or lessen those miserable allergy symptoms. Read on to find out!
Types of Allergies
Allergies are a type of inflammation — usually occurring in the nose, sinuses and lungs — that cause symptoms of sneezing, itching, congestion (stuffiness), drainage, coughing, etc. These symptoms can be due to many types of allergens, such as dust mites, molds, animal dander, cockroaches, trees, grasses or weeds.
Seasonal allergies are caused by the pollen present during the different seasons. Tree and grass pollens are increased during spring months (February through June) and weed pollen is predominant in the fall (August through November). Mold pollen is present all year long, but can increase during the summer months when the weather is hot and humid.
Perennial allergies are caused by allergens that are present all year long, such as dust mites, mold and animal dander. Avoidance measures can be helpful in reducing exposure to all allergens. Simple measures such as keeping windows closed, taking a shower after coming indoors, washing sheets in hot water weekly and putting allergen covers on mattresses and pillows can help decrease symptoms due to allergens.
Allergy testing can be helpful in determining what is triggering symptoms. This test can be done in-office and usually takes about 30 minutes. Small amounts of allergens in liquid form are pressed into the skin. About 15 minutes later, the test is read to determine the presence of an allergic reaction to the specific allergens. Testing alone does not diagnose allergies, but using this in combination with a detailed medical history can help determine which allergens are truly affecting you. Many medical offices offer allergy testing, but having a fellowship-trained allergist interpret these tests can help ensure the best treatment plan and best possible outcome for you or your family member.
If the testing sites become red, itchy or swollen, cream can be applied to help alleviate these symptoms. In rare instances, allergy testing can lead to a more severe, systemic reaction – another reason that seeing a specialist is important. Once you know what you are allergic to, the appropriate steps can be put in place to get you feeling your best.
Allergy Shots and Drops
Allergy shots, also known as allergy immunotherapy, can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life. An extract is created based on the patient’s specific allergens. A specialist will have extensive knowledge of which allergens can be safely mixed, which allergens cross react, and the appropriate doses of each allergen extract needed to meet efficacy guidelines.
This knowledge is important in ensuring that the four to five years a patient spends completing a course of allergen immunotherapy is worthwhile. Many different types of medical providers are now offering allergy shots, and it is important to make sure that the provider has the knowledge and training necessary to allow a patient to get the maximum benefit from the allergy shots, while doing so in the safest manner possible.
Allergy shots work by slowly “teaching” the body to no longer recognize certain proteins (pollens, animal dander, etc.) as allergens. At Hedberg Allergy & Asthma clinic, for example, we start with an extremely low dose of allergen and slowly build up over the course of approximately one year. Once the patient reaches a specified “maintenance” dose with weekly shots, this dose is continued for three to four additional years, occasionally longer. After the first year, shots are spaced out monthly for most patients. After initiation of allergy shots, most patients find they have decreasing allergy symptoms or infections and gradually require less allergy medication. Allergy shots are the only long-term way to bring symptoms under control in patients who have significant allergic disease.
Allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy) are another way to treat allergies. The same extracts used in shots are used to formulate drops. This form of treatment is not approved by the FDA currently, but still can be used for certain patients. Research has shown that this form of therapy may not be as effective as shots and may lead to other allergy challenges with treatment.
Schedule an appointment at Hedberg Allergy & Asthma to discuss which treatment option is best for you.Visit hedbergallergy.com for more information.