Allergies can negatively impact a patient’s life with symptoms that can interfere with normal daily activities. A large portion of our patients are affected by allergies and their related problems.
Dr. DeEtta Gray performs allergy testing and desensitization for patients from Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Seattle and throughout the Northwest who suffer from allergies and allergic reactions.
What is an allergic reaction?
An Allergy is caused by an oversensitive immune system, which leads to a misdirected immune response. When your immune system responds to a substance that it believes is an unwelcome invader, it produces special antibodies. These antibodies have the capacity to recognize the allergen at a later time it enters the body. The immune system responds by reacting with blood vessel dilation, tissue destruction, and the production of histamine or other inflammatory substance. For some allergy sufferers symptoms may be seasonal, but for others it is a year-round discomfort.
What part of the body is contacted by the allergen plays a role in the symptoms you develop. For example, allergens that are breathed in will cause a stuffy nose, itchy throat, wheezing or a cough. Nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or even a severe, life-threatening reaction is often caused by food allergies. Plant allergies will often cause a skin rash, while drug allergies typically involve the whole body, leading to a range of symptoms.
Certain medical conditions such as asthma, sinus problems, and eczema are also linked to allergies.
What causes an allergic reaction?
An overly reactive immune response to irritants in the environment such as pollen, mold, dust, animal dander, chemicals, insects, cosmetics and jewelry can cause these reactions. The immune system, which protects the body against harmful substances, instead reacts to these substances that are generally harmless. Both environmental factors and genetics can play a role.
Some people have allergy-like reactions to hot or cold temperatures or sunlight. Friction caused by rubbing or roughly stroking the skin may also cause symptoms.
What are common allergy symptoms?
Common allergy symptoms are produced by histamine (a chemical produced by your body) and include watery, itchy or burning eyes, conjunctivitis (red, swollen eyes), sneezing, mucus production, sinus and/or nasal congestion, scratchy throat, coughing, blocked ears, shortness of breath or wheezing, headaches, muscle spasms, diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, rashes, itching and hives. These symptoms will vary from person to person.
What tests are available to determine the cause of my allergies?
After Dr. Gray performs a thorough examination of your ears, nose, throat, head, and neck and gathers a detailed history, our doctor will be able to determine if an infection or structural abnormality, such as a deviated septum or polyps, are contributing to your symptoms. We will perform a physical exam and ask questions such as when the allergy occurs.
Skin testing is the most common method of allergy testing and it involves placing a small amount of the suspected substances on the skin, and then slightly pricking the area so the substance moves under the skin. The test is done for common allergens –such as dust, mold, grass, ragweed, trees, and pets, among others. The skin is closely watched for signs of a reaction, which may include redness or swelling. The doctor may also check your reaction to physical triggers by applying cold, heat, or another form of stimulation to watch your body for an allergic response.
Laboratory blood testing may be performed to measure the levels of specific allergy-related substances including a blood cell count that may also help to reveal allergies.
To check for food or medication allergies, our doctor may recommend “use or elimination testing” which involves using and/or avoiding certain items and noting your response.
How do I control my allergy symptoms?
Allergy symptom control is most successful when multiple management approaches are used simultaneously. This often includes minimizing allergen exposure, medications, and desensitization with allergy shots. The best way to reduce symptoms is to try and avoid what causes your allergies in the first place. This is especially important for food and drug allergies.
Medications including antihistamines, nasal decongestant sprays, steroid sprays, saline sprays, cortisone-type preparations, as well as over-the-counter drugs can be beneficial.
In some cases, our doctor performs regularly scheduled allergy vaccines.
Dr. Gray may recommend a medication depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, your age, and overall health. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) require treatment with a medicine called epinephrine, which can be life saving when immediately given.
Specific illnesses that are caused by allergies (such as asthma, hay fever, and eczema) may require other treatments.