Allergies are quite common to a large number of people including millions of Americans. Allergy is a condition that occurs when one’s immune system reacts to a specific substance like it is a foreign object or an intruder. This substance is known as allergen.
The immune system will then produce some immunoglobins or antibodies that recognize the allergens whenever they are introduced into the body. This causes a chain of reactions such as vasodilatation (dilation of the blood vessels) and the production of an inflammatory chemical substance called histamine.
Histamine is responsible for the allergy symptoms such as sneezing, feeling of fullness in the nose, runny nose, scratchy throat, itchy eyes, apnea etc. Nasal allergies are more commonly known as Hay Fever. The allergens (substances that trigger allergy response) are mainly pollens, some certain food substances, dust, pet dander, feathers, molds, airborne pollutants and even drugs like penicillin.
People often believe that some flowering plants are responsible for their allergens not knowing that it is usually the pollens from grasses that cause allergic rhinitis (hay fever). This condition is common among people between the ages of 20 years and 40 years, however children too have allergic rhinitis.
Pollen rhinitis occurs due to change in seasons and long time exposure to pollen. Grass pollen or ragsweed pollen is more common in the summer and fall while pollen from flowering plants and trees is usually in the spring.
Allergic rhinitis is usually hereditary and people with a family history of allergies are more susceptible to the condition. Other risk factors may include smoking, some certain chemical substances, deodorants/perfumes/hairspray, air pollutants such as wood smoke and fumes etc.
If you have allergies, you need to make an appointment with the ENT specialist for allergies testing to know the specific allergens responsible for your discomfort. The doctor will do a proper evaluation of your medical and family history and then examine your ears, nose and throat. A skin prick test or a blood test may be done to know the specific allergen you react to.
Allergies can also cause other ENT related conditions such as postnasal drips, chronic sinusitis, headaches, fatigue, colds, and dizziness, hearing loss or even asthma. The otolaryngologists (ENT specialists) are specially trained in diagnosing and managing allergies. They will suggest a management plan best suitable for your allergies depending on the underlying cause.
If the allergies (in some cases) are caused by structural defects such as deviated septums or nasal polyps (benign growths in the nose), surgery may be recommended.
An effective way of managing allergies is reducing your exposure to allergens to the barest minimum. You can make sure your home is free from airborne pollens, molds and dew by closing the windows and doors at all times during its season. Over-the-counter drugs especially antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays can also be helpful if used as prescribed by the doctor.
Allergies are usually non-severe but can have an adverse effect on the quality of life of the person suffering from it due to decrease productivity levels, lack of concentration due to discomfort which may also affect a person’s social skills. If the symptoms are not relieved by over-the-counter drugs, make an appointment with the ENT doctor.