When we think of allergies, most people immediately think of seasonal allergies, particularly here in North Carolina. But you can also have an allergic reaction to foods and animal dander. Whether it’s caused by pollen, fungus, pets, dairy or nuts, allergic reactions can run the gamut from mildly annoying to life-threatening.
Facing allergies can be a challenge and many over-the-counter products only provide temporary relief. As an innovator in direct primary care in Raleigh, Dr. Patrick O’Connell is committed to helping you recognize the signs of allergies and allergic reactions you or someone you know may experience.
Types of Allergies
Seasonal allergic rhinitis
Commonly called hay fever, seasonal allergic rhinitis typically occurs during spring, summer, and fall. Symptoms can include sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, and watery and itchy eyes. Many people experience these symptoms year round. In that case, symptoms may be caused by indoor molds, dust mites, or pets.
Urticaria or hives
Red, itchy bumps that form in clusters on the skin. Commonly triggered by food or certain medications. Hives can be mild or severe.
Allergies of the eyes occur when the tissues of the eyes react to allergens such as pollen or dust. Symptoms can include reddening, itching, watering, and swelling of the entire eye area.
Eczema or atopic dermatitis
An allergy of the skin. Eczema results in itching, reddening, flaking or peeling of the skin. Generally, symptoms of eczema will start in childhood and many who suffer from eczema also develop asthma.
Occurs when you eat certain foods. There are particular proteins in cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts like almonds or pecans, fish or shellfish that can cause your immune system to overreact.
This is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. Anaphylaxis commonly occurs from food, insect stings, latex and medications.
Awareness of the signs of anaphylaxis can save a life:
- throat tightness
- shortness of breath
- abdominal pain or cramps
Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect that you or someone you are with is experiencing anaphylactic shock, call 911 immediately. If the victim has an epinephrine pen available, read the instructions and use it!
Allergies are diagnosed based on a person’s symptoms. Your primary care provider can evaluate your symptoms, review your medical history, and perform a physical exam. You may be asked to keep a record of symptoms and possible triggers as well as undergo allergy testing or blood testing to help identify what is causing your reaction.
Allergen avoidance is generally the most important step in treating your allergies. While not always possible, it is a helpful way to avoid symptoms. Medications can also be used depending on your allergies. Over-the-counter or prescription nasal sprays, pills, or eye drops can be very helpful in relieving the symptoms of your allergies.
Immunotherapy involves a series of injections of purified allergen extracts given over a specified period of time. An alternative to immunotherapy shots is sublingual therapy, a pill placed under the tongue. This type of therapy is effective in introducing allergens to your body and helps your body react in a healthier manner.
Emergency epinephrine or epi pens are used in severe allergic reactions. It is typically carried by the person that has a severe allergy and will temporarily reduce the symptoms until emergency personnel can arrive.
To reduce your symptoms at home, there are several things you can do. Nasal irrigation is helpful to many people. However, make sure you are using the right form and cleaning the device properly, otherwise, this method can lead to infection.
Frequently washing linens can help remove dust mites and pet dander and limiting soft surfaces in your home such as carpet and heavy drapes can also help reduce allergic reactions. Maintaining low humidity and regularly vacuuming with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) air filter will also reduce pet dander and air particles.
If mold is causing your symptoms, reduce the moisture in damp areas like the kitchen and bath by using ventilator fans or dehumidifiers and repair leaks promptly.
Let’s Manage Your Allergies Together
If you believe that you are having allergic reactions or allergy symptoms, schedule a visit with Dr. Patrick O’Connell today. Through top-notch medical care, he can help you identify the source of your reactions as well as develop a treatment plan to help you manage your allergies and improve your quality of life.