Allergy is a genetic condition. The body is constantly exposed to substances in our environment. Those who are not genetically predisposed to respond to these substances will find them harmless, while others will respond as though they are harmful invaders.
The name given to such substances are allergens. Repeated exposure, for those who are genetically prone to respond, will cause various allergic symptoms over time. The symptoms produced range from mild discomfort to life threatening.
Who has allergies?
It is estimated that at least 20% of the population is likely to develop some kind of allergy. It is most common for allergies to begin in childhood, but symptoms can manifest themselves at any age. You are never too old to develop allergies!
What are the most common allergens?
Examples of allergens include the pollens of trees, grasses and weeds, mold spores, dust mites, animal danders, feathers, drugs and insect venoms.
Seasonal allergies are caused by allergens that we are exposed to at certain times of the year. In the spring, peak pollination time for trees occurs from March through May. During summertime, June through August, there is the peak pollination of grass pollens. Finally, from September to the first heavy frost brings the prime time for weed pollens.
Perennial allergy symptoms are caused by the allergens found in our environment all year round, including the dander of our pets in our homes, dust mites and mold spores.
Should an otolaryngologist treat your allergies?
A large portion of problems experienced by our patients are caused by, worsened by, or related to allergies. As a medical and surgical specialty, allergy diagnosis and management is within the scope of otolaryngology ‐ head and neck surgery. Management of allergic disorders is part of the training and examination required to become board certified. Therefore, our board-certified otolaryngologists are well qualified to care for patients with allergic disorders.
Allergy skin testing
Skin testing is a means by which allergies can be diagnosed. The offending allergens can be identified and the levels of sensitivities indicated. For example, you may be highly allergic to ragweed pollen but only mildly allergic to hickory tree pollen. Each of the offending allergens can be treated according to individual level of sensitivity. A formulae for vaccine treatment is designed based on test results.
Testing is performed by highly-qualified medical assistants, taking approximately 2 hours, using the arms as testing sites.
A drop of each allergen is injected under the first layer of skin or a prick method may be applied. The skin will be observed for size of responses in the form of wheals (hives or welts). These responses are interpreted to determine what you are allergic to and if treatment with allergy serum injections is warranted.
There will be detailed education concerning allergen controls in the home environment provided by the medical assistant during testing time.
Occasionally, it may be appropriate or necessary for blood testing to be done to identify allergies, when skin testing is not an option.
If it is determined that you have positive testing to multiple allergens, the provider may recommend Immunotherapy, which is an ongoing series of allergy serum injections or drops as treatment.
This therapy requires 2-5 years of patient commitment to weekly injections and yearly physician review visits. With ongoing care, seasonal and perennial allergies will improve.
Other options, besides Immunotherapy, for treatment include taking prescribed antihistamine medications, decongestants, using prescribed nasal steroids and implementing environmental controls in the home.
Kentuckiana Ear Nose & Throat also provides sublingual allergy treatment that can be done from the convenience of home. For more information please contact the Allergy Department.
How successful is immunotherapy?
Over 85% of patients who receive regular injections over the recommended period of time experience significant improvement or complete relief from their symptoms.
If you have any questions about an upcoming allergy appointment, please contact our allergy department at 502-894-8441 Ext 223
Please click here to download our skin testing information sheet and our current list of medications to avoid prior to your appointment.