The information provided by AskYourAllergist.com is based on the premise that allergy sufferers are seeking the best quality allergy and asthma related information they can get in the web. There are a lot of allergy information sites however only a few provide high quality, reputable allergy information, and that the majority of allergy-related sites are “spam sites” that clog up search results and provide superficial, useless and impractical allergy information. AskYourAllergist.com uses a multi-disciplinary approach using board certified specialists in the field of allergy and immunology, other experts in allergy-related fields, and even allergy sufferers who have practical information to share. The allergy articles provided at AskYourAllergist.com are doctor-reviewed to ensure that they are original and based on good, valid evidence.
AskYourAllergist.com emphasizes the importance and value of an Allergist as the expert physician to see for any of your allergy related problems. It is our goal that by using AskYourAllergist.com you will seek the personal care of your own allergist and get to “ask your allergist” more questions about your allergy problems. However, if you are to seek the care of an allergist, make sure that you see one who is a Diplomate or Board Certified by the Conjoint Board of the American Board of Allergy & Immunology(ABAI).
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What is an Allergy?
The word allergy was coined in 1906 by the Clemens von Pirquet and Bela Schick from the Greek words allos, meaning “altered, strange or different” and ergon meaning “reaction.” An allergic reaction is truly a misguided, altered reaction because the body develops an immune response to a substance that is usually harmless, and does not cause problems in non-allergic individuals. Substances such as pollens, mold spores, some foods, and animal proteins are inadvertently recognized by allergic individuals as harmful. Thus allergic patients develop the immune allergic reaction that makes them sick when exposed to these allergenic substances and develop diseases such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, pet allergies, food allergies, drug allergies, and insect sting anaphylaxis.
What Causes Allergic Reactions?
There are hundreds of substances that are usually harmless that precipitate an allergic reaction. These ordinary substances are usually proteins, either pure proteins or complex proteins with a carbohydrate, that are recognized by the allergic-prone individual to develop an allergic reaction. An example of an allergen that is a pure protein is cat albumin, which is the cat allergen that is highly allergenic. While an example of more complex protein-polysaccharide allergen would be food allergens or pollens. The most common known allergens include mold spores, household dust (dust mites), airborne pollens, pet allergens, insect venom, foods, and medications.
What are my risks of developing allergies?
Allergies affect a large percentage of the general U.S. population, with allergic rhinitis and asthma being the two most predominant allergic diseases. Individuals who develop allergies usually have a genetic predisposition to become allergic however the risk of developing allergic sensitization is usually more complex that simple genetics alone. It is usually an interplay of external(environmental) factors and internal(genetics, gender, obesity) factors that can determine the risk of developing allergies or asthma. Also, it may also depend on the degree and duration of exposure to an allergen, and sometimes the simultaneous presence of additional environmental factors (e.g. tobacco smoke, pets, viral infections) that will determine of allergen sensitivity will develop.
However, if one looks primarily at familial tendency, when one parent has allergies, there is a 30% chance that their offspring will develop allergies. The risk for developing allergies increases to 50-60% if both parents have allergies.
What is an Allergist?
There is a lot of confusion out there as to what is truly an allergist. It is because there are a lot of physicians who claim to be allergists when they have not undergone the rigorous training required to truly become an allergist. It is truly disconcerting when certain ENT surgeons or general physicians claim to be allergists when they have not undergone the required training by the ACGME and American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI) to be declared true allergists. It is extremely important to check your doctor’s credentials to determine if they are truly an allergist
An allergist is a physician who has undergone extensive training in the treatment of allergies, asthma, sinus diseases and other allergic/immunologic disorders. An allergist is required, after graduating from medical school, to undergo three years of residency training in either Internal Medicine or Pediatrics, and then an additional 2-3 years of sub-specialty fellowship training in an Allergy/Immunology. The allergist is required to pass the examination for the American Board of Internal Medicine(for Internists) or the American Board of Pediatrics(for Pediatricians), and the American Board of Allergy and Immunology(ABAI).
When do I need to see an Allergist?
An allergist treats various allergy related diseases such as asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and allergic conjunctivitis, sinusitis, and food allergies. Most patients are adequately treated by their primary care physicians however, in moderate to severe cases the allergy sufferer may not respond to customary care and would need a thorough allergy evaluation by a board certified allergy doctor. In general listed below are some valid reasons to see an allergist:
- When you want to find out if the condition you have is caused by allergies
- When you want to find out what specific allergens trigger your allergic condition
- When you know you have an allergic disease or asthma that is poorly controlled despite compliant standard therapy
- When you know you have an allergic disease and avoiding the allergen is not possible such as an occupation, or removing the pet is not possible.
- When you have recurrent respiratory symptoms such as sinusitis or bronchitis, and it is unclear if it is due to allergies or an infection.
- When you want to be evaluated for food allergies.
- When you need treatment and evaluation for recurrent hives or eczema.
Allergies present in many ways thus allergy symptoms may vary depending on the predominant organ system involved or the severity of one’s allergies. Also important is the temporal relationship the symptoms occur in association with a certain allergen or event. An example is developing acute allergy symptoms when entering a home with cats or dogs, or significant hay fever symptoms during the spring or fall, or after ingesting an allergenic food or drug. Hay fever or Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis affect the nose and eyes. So the typical symptoms of hay fever sufferers include intense itchy nose and eyes, profuse runny nose and watery eyes, sneezing, nasal blockage, and sinus headaches.
When an individual has allergic asthma, they can have symptoms of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness or congestion when exposed to allergens such as pollens, dust mites, cat allergen or other allergens. Asthma sufferers can also get flare-ups due to other causes such as respiratory infections, extreme weather, stress, and exercise.
Patients who have food allergies develop generalized hives and itching, swelling, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and can even develop asthma symptoms when they ingest allergenic foods. In severe cases of food allergies, a drop in blood pressure or severe swelling causing closure of the airways can potentially cause death. This are called anaphylactic shock or angioedema, respectively.