An allergy is a disorder of the immune system often referred to as atopy. Allergic reactions occur when certain people are exposed to otherwise harmless environmental substances known as allergens. Allergic reactions are characterized by an excessive activation of white blood cells called mast cells and basophils resulting in an extreme inflammatory response. Allergies can play a major role in conditions such as asthma. Symptoms typically include watery eyes, itching, hives, runny nose, sneezing, and wheezing. Common allergens include: pollen, mold, dog and cat dander, dust mites, eggs, peanuts, bee & wasp, and peanuts. Fortunately, with goal-oriented medical treatment and patient education emphasizing allergy prevention, the majority of patients can lead normal lives.
The immediate goal of treatment is to prevent the need for emergency room use and hospitalization—and to provide therapy such that patients can sleep through the night, attend work or school regularly, and participate in normal activities. Long-range goals are to desensitize against chronic allergic inflammation and educate patients in fundamental principles of allergy management. Management includes appropriate environmental control and avoidance of allergy triggers, and use of allergy preventive medications.
There are a wide range of medications used to block the action of allergic mediators, or to prevent activation of allergic processes. These include antihistamines, cortisone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, epinephrine (adrenaline), theophylline and cromolyn sodium. These medications help alleviate the symptoms of allergies, but play little role in chronic treatment of allergies.
EVERYONE WITH ALLERGIES – even it is mild, should carry a quick relief medication such as epi-pen at all times.
IMMUNOTHERAPY (ALLERGY SHOTS)
Allergy immunotherapy is a successful treatment of an allergy that involves a series of shots. The patient is vaccinated with progressively larger doses of a customized allergen. Physicians use this method to re-train the immune system to better distinguish irritant from infection. The treatment assists in the prevention of new allergies as well as reducing existing symptoms in patients.