Allergic Disorders

Patient education is an important part of good allergy care. Our physicians, our allergy nurse specialist, and our patient care staff will provide you with written educational material and direct individual education sessions related to your condition. We firmly believe that well informed care helps establish a strong therapeutic partnership with our staff.

Glossary

Conditions


Asthma – Asthma affects people of both sexes, all ages and all socioeconomic backgrounds. Asthma is one of the five most common chronic illnesses in the United States affecting about 12% of the overall population. Asthma is frequently under diagnosed and under treated. About 4200 people die of asthma each year in the U.S. and there are close to two million emergency room visits and five hundred thousand hospitalizations for asthma per year. Asthma can present with many different symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, cough and exercise intolerance. There is no one diagnostic test for asthma. Asthma is very treatable and can almost always be controlled with an appropriate long term treatment regimen. A Board Certified allergist is highly qualified to diagnose and treat asthma which is more common in people with environmental allergies. The goal of asthma therapy is to allow the patient a normal lifestyle while minimizing the risk of severe asthma attacks or side effects from therapy. (Back to Top)


Allergic Rhinitis is caused by substances in the air that we breathe in which are harmless to most people but cause allergic symptoms in about 15% of the population. Some allergic individuals have seasonal allergies to spring or fall pollen and some have year round allergies to dust, mold or animals. Some have both. Allergic rhinitis sufferers have certain cells in the nose which become activated when allergens enter the nose and release substances like histamine that cause the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy, watery eyes and post nasal drip. Not all people with nasal symptoms have allergies. The Board Certified allergist can determine if you have allergies and what the important allergens are. A treatment plan is then developed which can significantly reduce symptoms. Allergy shots can permanently reduce the person’s sensitivity to these allergens and need for chronic medications. (Back to Top)


Allergic Conjunctivitis is often present with symptoms of allergic rhinitis but sometimes occurs by itself. Allergic conjunctivitis is more commonly a seasonal problem due to pollen in the spring and fall and is also commonly caused by animal dander allergy. The patient develops itchy red, watery eyes with puffiness around the eyes and clear or slightly whitish drainage from the eye. Contact lenses will aggravate symptoms. The Board Certified allergist can help determine whether and which allergens are playing a role. Medicated eye drops, especially those available by prescription, work well but in some cases allergy shots (immunotherapy) are required to control symptoms. (Back to Top)


Allergic skin conditions: Allergic skin conditions include different forms such as, eczema, urticaria and allergic contact dermatitis. A Board Certified allergist can help determine if there is an ingested or environmental allergen triggering the skin reaction. (Back to Top)


Allergies to Animals
is mostly a problem with household pets such as cats, dogs and hamsters but can also occur with farm animals such as cattle, horses and chickens. People become sensitized to the animal’s dander or “skin scales” but allergy to animal urine and saliva can also play a role. Indoor animals shed dander constantly and dander levels in these homes can become high enough to start and maintain chronic allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and asthma in affected individuals. The difficulty of removing a beloved pet from the home or avoiding farm animals if one lives or works on a farm will often lead people to suffer for years with chronic symptoms. A Board Certified allergist can determine whether animal allergy is an issue and can offer strategies including allergen reduction, medication and allergy shots that will improve symptoms and quality of life. (Back to Top)


Urticaria (hives) are raised red itchy areas of the skin that vary in shape and size. They can occur any place on the body. About 25% of Americans will experience hives at least once. Some patients have hives that can be attributed to a specific cause such as a food or drug allergy. Many people have hives that cannot be diagnosed as being due to an allergic reaction. A Board Certified allergist is trained to evaluate for underlying allergies as a cause of hives and can shed light on whether or not allergies are responsible for the hives. (Back to Top)


Allergic Contact Dermatitis is the skin reaction that occurs when people with poison ivy allergy come in contact with the plant. The rash is often itchy, red, blistering and can follow the pattern of skin exposure such as lines on the skin. Some other agents that can cause this skin reaction include nickel, cosmetics, topical medications, perfumes and rubber products. A Board Certified allergist can evaluate whether you are having a contact allergic rash and do testing for specific causes. (Back to Top)


Drug Allergy is a major cause of illness experienced by patients who are being treated for other conditions. Drug allergies can manifest in different ways including everything from life threatening anaphylactic reactions to joint pain, fever or rashes. Any drug can cause an allergic reaction but certain drugs such as antibiotics are more prone to do so. If drug allergy is suspected, a Board Certified allergist can help determine which drug, if any, is responsible and offer insights into testing, treatment and the use of drug substitutes to help prevent future reactions. (Back to Top)


Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a red scaly itchy rash usually seen in children but can occur in adults. A personal or family history of allergic rhinitis or asthma is often present in individuals with eczema. The skin is dry and a mainstay of therapy is good hydration of the skin with topical moisturizers. Sometimes food or environmental allergens can trigger eczema and testing can be done to determine if this is a factor. (Back to Top)


Food Allergies are present in about 5% of children and 2% of adults in the United States. Food allergy occurs when a person’s immune system inappropriately reacts with an otherwise harmless protein in a food. The most common food allergens are cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, shellfish and tree nuts. Some childhood food allergies are outgrown and others are not. Food allergy may cause eczema, gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea and even some coughing or wheezing especially in children with asthma. Severe reactions to foods are known as anaphylaxis and are life threatening. Symptoms can include hives, flushing, itching, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, feeling faint and loss of consciousness. The Board Certified allergist can help identify the offending food allergen and develop a plan for avoidance and treatment to prevent serious adverse reactions. (Back to Top)


Work place Allergies- Some individuals suffer from allergies related to workplace exposures such as healthcare workers who are allergic to latex and are exposed in the healthcare setting. Other common occupations affected by workplace allergies include veterinary or lab workers, farmers, chemical workers and food workers. A Board Certified allergist can help determine if occupational allergy is contributing to symptoms or if their causes can be identified. We are not able to accept workman’s compensation cases. (Back to Top)


Insect Sting Allergy- The venom of stinging insects such as wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and honey bees (fire ants in the southern US) usually causes local pain, redness and swelling. A small subset of people are actually allergic to the venom and can have much more severe, generalized reactions which can be life threatening. These reactions are known as anaphylactic reactions and often involve flushing, hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, feeling faint and even passing out. Venom allergy can be diagnosed and effectively treated by properly trained allergists in order to dramatically reduce the risk of severe life threatening reactions. (Back to Top)


Inherited Disorders of the Immune System are rare but can make children more prone to infections and especially to serious, life threatening infections. Children with significant dysfunction of their immune systems will often have a history of recurrent use of antibiotics, hospitalizations for infection and even failure to grow well. If an inherited immune disorder is suspected in a child, a Board Certified allergist will be able to do a preliminary evaluation of immune status and, if an immune problem is detected, provide therapy and a referral to the proper specialists. (Back to Top)


Sinusitis is an inflammation of the hollow cavities known as sinuses which are in the cheek bones and behind the nose. Sinusitis can be caused by allergies which block normal sinus drainage and cause a back up of mucous in the sinuses which become infected with bacteria. Allergies themselves can produce inflammation in the sinuses in the absence of infection. Sinusitis can be acute(less than 4 weeks) or can become a chronic problem. Symptoms include stuffy nose, headache, fatigue, post nasal drip, cough and thick nasal drainage. Sinusitis can usually be treated by a Board Certified allergist without resorting to surgery. Dealing with underlying allergy triggers, promoting sinus drainage and treating bacterial infection when necessary are mainstays of therapy. (Back to Top)