Our allergy team at College Park Family Care works with our primary care doctors and other specialists to diagnose and treat a wide-variety of allergy and asthma issues. We use the latest treatment results and therapies to help get our patients symptoms under control to help them get back to enjoying life.
What are Allergies?
At its most basic level, an allergic reaction is your body's way of fighting off a perceived threat to it. When your body is sensitive, or allergic, to certain substances, your immune system overreacts to those substances and releases what are called histamines, to fight off the substances. For example, if you are allergic to ragweed or pollen, or perhaps cat dander, your body releases histamines that may cause you to sneeze, cough or wheeze, or your eyes to itch. In more serious instances of insect or food allergies, for example, the body can react with hives, itching, or more severe symptoms such as anaphylaxis - a life-threatening reaction that can inhibit your breathing, cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and even send your body into shock. Allergies can manifest themselves at any stage in life. Consider that while an wasp sting may not overly bother you beyond the initial discomfort the first two times you're stung, the third time may bring on a strong reaction. Similarly with food, something that gives you a mild stomach upset one time may the next time result in a much more severe reaction.
Allergy Types & Their Symptoms
Grass, pollen (ragweed) and mold are among the most common seasonal triggers that cause your nasal passages to swell and become inflamed, and bring on sneezing, coughing, watery eyes.
While virtually any food can cause an allergic reaction, 90 percent of all reactions come from eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. Symptoms range from hives and rashes to vomiting, wheezing and facial swelling, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.
The most common pet allergies are related to dogs or cats, when exposure to their dander can cause sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, coughing and other respiratory symptoms. Some people also develop itchy skin or hives.
Allergic reactions to drugs can occur in any part of your body and with both oral and injected drugs. Common drugs to which people are allergic include penicillin and related antibiotics, sulfa drugs, and even aspirin, ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Symptoms can range from mild skin rashes or itching to serous reactions such as anaphylaxis.
According to the ACAAI, the stings of five insects - honeybees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets and fire ants - are known to cause allergic reactions. The severity of an insect sting reaction varies from person to person and from one sting to the next. You may not experience an allergic reaction until you have been stung several times.
Dust can cause some people to experience difficulty breathing, as well as wheezing, coughing, sneezing or itchy skin.
The cleaners we use in our homes, our laundry detergents, cosmetics, soaps, even tissues all have chemicals which can cause our bodies to experience allergic skin reactions -- rashes, itchiness, hives, blisters etc.
How are Allergies Treated?
At College Park Family Care Allergy, we use a variety of medications and therapies depending on the individual needs of our patients and their families.
Avoidance of Known Allergies - Many allergy triggers can be avoided by avoidance of those allergens identified for the patient.
Allergy Medication - Decongestants and antihistamines are the most common allergy medications which can reduce symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and itching. Other medications work by inhibiting the chemicals or substances that cause allergic reactions. Your allergist will determine which medicines to control your symptoms while minimizing any side effects.
Immunotherapy - Sometimes referred to as "allergy shots," immunotherapy treatment involves giving gradually increasing doses of the substance to which you are allergic. Over time, this causes your immune system to become less sensitive to the substance. Immunotherapy is not a cure, but over time, can minimize the symptoms.
Allergies are not something any of us wish to have, but understanding your allergy symptoms and their causes, and receiving appropriate treatment can help ensure they don't limit your activities or your enjoyment of life.