Georgia has made Livestrong.com’s unfortunate list as one of the five worst states for allergies. Pollen, one of the biggest allergy offenders, thrives in our generally warm, humid climate. Goldenrod, clover and ragweed, oak, cedar, slippery elm, and pine trees are all prevalent in this area and produce a lot of pollen. Our subtropical climate also promotes mold-related allergens.
In addition to outdoor allergens, there are a number of indoor allergens many of us deal with year-round. These include pet allergens, dust mites, cockroaches and indoor molds. Then there are allergies to foods like shellfish, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts, which, if consumed, can be trigger strong reactions for some people.
No matter what type of allergy you may suffer from, it can be miserable. Simply stated, an allergy is an overreaction of the body’s immune system to harmless substances either in the environment or that have been ingested. These substances are referred to as allergens. The body treats allergens as harmful invaders and tries to defend itself, resulting in symptoms that can range from annoying to significantly debilitating.
Common allergy symptoms include itchy or watery eyes, nasal and sinus congestion, headaches, sneezing, a scratchy throat, and hives. Less common, but more serious symptoms, include difficulty breathing, swelling (particularly in the face, throat, lips, and tongue in cases of food allergies), lightheadedness, dizziness, a rapid drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness.
At the Atlanta Institute for ENT, we specialize in the management of all types of allergies. Our ear, nose, and throat specialists can evaluate your allergy symptoms and develop a tailored treatment plan to fit your particular needs.
We start with a review of your medical history and detailed account of your symptoms and a thorough physical examination, followed by testing. Often times, when people first experience an allergic reaction, they aren’t sure of what caused it. Usually, it takes an episode or two before the cause becomes clear. If it’s not clear what caused the allergy, allergy testing is warranted to determine what is causing the allergic reactions.
To test for allergies, we use a skin test procedure called Intradermal Dilutional Testing. Using very fine needles, small amounts of the test antigen are injected into the upper arm. This results in a series of bumps which resemble mosquito bites. If the bumps increase in size after a short amount of time, this indicates an allergy. Test results will be evaluated in conjunction with your symptoms and response to medications, to confirm your diagnosis and guide your treatment plan.
Three main types of allergy treatments are available. The least invasive remedy is environmental elimination: trying to avoid the triggers responsible for the symptoms. This is most effective for individuals suffering from pet or food allergies, but it is less likely to be successful for those allergic to dust mites, molds, and pollens. However, steps can be taken to reduce exposure environmental allergens, such as using a dehumidifier, limiting outdoor activities during peak pollen-producing times of the year, and buying allergy-proof bedding.
Medication is another effective form of therapy for allergies. Many exist in over-the-counter forms but some are prescription only. Types of medications that are effective at preventing and treating the symptoms of allergies include, antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, eye drops and nasal sprays. They don’t cure allergies, but they can certainly reduce the severity of the symptoms and offer some relief.
The third type of allergy treatment is immunotherapy (allergy shots). During immunotherapy, small amounts of the allergen are introduced into the body, allowing it to build up a tolerance. The dose is gradually increased over time until a maintenance dosage is achieved. Patients often feel improvement in their symptoms after just a couple of months of treatment. However, treatment normally continues for several years, until complete immunity is achieved. The procedure is considered safe and effective and has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
What’s the bottom-line? You don’t need to let allergies take over your life. If you suffer from persistent or severe allergies and you live in the Atlanta area, we encourage you to call our office at 404-257-1589 to schedule a consultation. We will discuss the full range of treatment options with you, and treatment recommendations will be individualized for your particular case. Let us help you find the relief to your allergy symptoms so you can start enjoying life again.