The Season for Allergies

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By: Christian Hall, M.D., Lane RMC

    Fall is full of amazing things: cooler weather, beautiful and colorful leaves, football season, and…allergies?  Two out of every ten Americans suffer from allergies.  Although specific allergies cannot be inherited, people can inherit the tendency to be allergic.  If one parent suffers from allergies, their child develops a 50 percent chance of inheriting allergies.  If both parents have allergies, those odds increase to 75 percent.

•           Allergies account for more than 17 million physician office visits, 30,000 emergency room visits, and several hundred deaths each year.  Individuals with allergies are also at heightened risk for other diseases, including asthma.

    Dr. Christian Hall defines allergies as “an abnormal response of the immune system, which reacts to a usually harmless substance such as pollen, mold, animal dander or food.”  A person can be exposed to these allergens by inhaling them, swallowing them, or getting them on or under their skin.

    When suffering from a common allergic reaction, a person can have a number of symptoms including:

•           Itchy eyes

•           Sneezing

•           Runny nose

•           Rashes

•           Feeling tired

•           Hives

    Symptoms vary depending on what you’re having an allergic reaction to.  Food allergies have more internal reactions such as stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea.

    Symptom severity can range from very mild, almost even unnoticeable, to severe.  Moderate allergic reactions can make you feel as though you have a cold or the flu, while more severe reactions can be debilitating.  While most symptoms do not last long after the exposure to the allergen stops, the most severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, can be life threatening.  Anaphylaxis reactions cause whole-body symptoms that include:

•   Hives and itching all over

•   Wheezing or shortness of breath

•   Tightness in the throat

•   Tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp

    “Anaphylactic symptoms progress quickly,” says Dr. Hall.  “If you or a friend is experiencing an anaphylactic allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.”

    Finding the cause of allergies can be as easy as realizing you sneeze every time you get close to a flower.  However, some allergens are harder to detect.  An allergist can perform many different tests to help you find your trigger.  These tests include skin testing, blood tests, or just the process of eliminating and re-introducing certain allergens in order to find those triggers. 

    Skin testing is the most common and the most helpful.  Skin testing involves exposing skin to certain allergens over an extended period of time to observe reactions.  Once allergens are detected, prevention can involve taking certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines, although the best prevention is avoiding your triggers altogether if possible.

    For more information or allergy testing services, please call ENT Medical Center at 225-658-6220, located on the campus of Lane Regional Medical Center, 6110 Main Street in Zachary.

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