Allergies occur when the body's immune system over-reacts to particles that are normally harmless. In environmental allergies (also called hay fever or allergic rhinitis), the body's immune system over-reacts to allergens from animals, dust mites, or pollens from grasses, weeds, trees, and molds which are present in the air that you breathe in. When these allergens enter the nose, sinuses, and lungs, the body's immune system over-reacts to these particles and releases a number of chemicals, including histamine and leukotrienes, resulting in what is called an allergic reaction.
Individuals suffering from environmental allergies may have one or more of the following symptoms:
Symptoms can occur within a few minutes of exposure to allergens. Individuals allergic to pollens from plants typically have symptoms during the Spring, Summer and/or Fall, while individuals allergic to animals and dust mites often have symptoms all year long.
Individuals with environmental allergies also can develop frequent ear or sinus infections (especially in the Spring and Fall), difficulties sleeping, snoring, fatigue, depression, and decreased attention span. They are also at increased risk of
developing asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema).
The treatment of allergies is a three step process:
Your board certified allergist/immunologist can also provide you with more information on allergen immunotherapy
Do you ever wonder if your symptoms are due to a cold or environmental allergies? How can one tell?
The symptoms, and the duration of the symptoms, can often be helpful in figuring out what the cause is.
Colds, caused by viruses, often result in a stuffy or runny nose, coughing, sneezing, a sore throat. Occasionally, they may also cause fatigue, body aches, and a low grade fever. Symptoms usually last 3-14 days.
Environmental allergies cause some of the same symptoms as cold -stuffy or runny nose, sneezing. Occasionally allergies can also result in fatigue, cough, and sore throat. However, environmental allergies never cause fevers, body aches or pains. The duration of allergy symptoms can vary depending on the cause, but overall they tend to last much longer than colds. For example, people allergic to tree pollens may have symptoms lasting 6-8 weeks in the Spring. Individuals allergic to dust mites or animals may have symptoms year round.
Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate colds from allergies just by the symptoms. This is when an evaluation by a board certified allergist is useful. With the help of allergy testing, the cause of the symptoms can be identified and a more effective treatment plan can be offered