2What is Allergy?An exaggerated immune response to normally harmless substances such as: food, mold spores, dust mites, insect venoms, trees, grasses, weeds, medications and chemicals.
3What else can trigger an allergic reaction? InfectionStressFatiguePollutionSmellSmoke
4Mechanism of the Allergic Reaction Allergens (mold, dust, etc) enter the bodyIf you are allergic, your body may overreact causing excess production of IgE antibodiesAfter further exposure, the allergen binds with the IgE antibody and causes certain cells to release histamine-like substances.
5What are histamine-like substances? These substances cause the allergic symptoms you’re familiar with:Itchy, watery eyesSneezingNasal Congestion/Runny nosePain or pressure in ears, ear infection
6What are antibodies?Antibodies are the body’s “soldiers” and normally they serve to protect us. In the allergic individual, the immune system “mis-reads” a substance/allergen as an “invader” and produces IgE antibodies in excess causing an allergic reaction.
7How are allergies diagnosed? Accurate diagnosis is key to successful treatment and requires:PATIENT HISTORYPHYSICAL EXAMTESTING
8The HistoryReviewing patient history can establish how and when the symptoms appear, whether they are seasonal or year-round and whether they can be associated with any particular activity, place or exposure.
9PHYSICAL EXAMYour physical exam will focus on the eyes, ears, nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Results of the exam will be more informative if performed “in season,” or while the symptoms are at their peak.
10IgE Allergen-Specific Blood Tests for Testing An alternative method for testing in lieu of skin prick tests, is called a RAST test. A small sample of your blood is mixed with different allergens and observed for a chemical reaction.Advantages:Convenient – 1 needle stickSafe – not affected by medications you may takeDependable – strict laboratory procedures are followed to provide precise, accurate resultsReduced Risk and Patient Discomfort
11Why should a Total IgE be ordered? An elevated Total IgE may signal an allergic response outside of the allergen panel selected. For example, your initial panel of IgE-specific tests may not indicate an allergic response. However, an elevated IgE may prompt your doctor to consider ordering additional allergens to identify the offending allergen(s).A normal or low Total IgE along with negative test results will confirm that IgE-mediated allergy is probably not the culprit.
12How do you “get” an allergy? You can develop an allergy at any age.Usually, symptoms first appear in childhood after exposure to the offending allergen.You may have inherited a tendency to develop allergy. If one parent had it, you have a 50% chance, if both parents have a history of allergy your chance increases to 75%.
13Are allergies more than just an annoyance? The “Allergic March” is a term used to describe the allergic disease progression throughout one’s lifetime. It starts in infancy as eczema and gastrointestinal problems, usually do to food allergy, and then progresses on to hay fever and asthma if left untreated. Blood testing for allergies with appropriate treatment alters the progression of the allergic march.
14What can be done to alleviate my symptoms? Avoidance of the offending allergen(s)Pharmacotherapy (medications)Immunotherapy (shots or drops)Combination of the above
15The “Bucket” TheoryWhen you are allergic to a particular substance, there is a certain amount of it that can be tolerated without exhibiting symptoms. However, once your threshold is exceeded, your symptoms will appear. Therefore, allergen avoidance is not a 100% reduction of the allergen exposure, but it is a reduction of the threshold dose that initiates symptoms. In simpler terms, if you know that a bucket can hold a gallon of water and you decide to add more than that amount, spillage will occur. This “spillage” is the allergy trigger and the point in time when your symptoms will appear.
16The Most Important TipWhichever treatment your doctor prescribes, it’s important to continue your treatment on a regular basis. Trust your doctor and stay with the program.