What is an Allergist?

Allergists are doctors who specialize in treating allergies and other immune problems. As allergies are an overreaction of the immune system, allergists must have a thorough understanding of how your body fights infection to treat the hypersensitivity that leads to allergies. Seeing an allergist may help you improve your health if you’re experiencing certain symptoms.

Allergies are one of the most common complaints in the world. Allergies worldwide have been on the rise for nearly 50 years, and today nearly 50% of children have at least one allergy. It’s possible to be allergic to just about anything, although pollen, dander, medication, and food allergies are most common, This is why allergists exist. Also known as immunologists.

What is an allergy?

One of the marvels of the human body is that it can defend itself against harmful invaders such as viruses or bacteria. But sometimes the defenses are too aggressive and harmless substances such as dust, molds or pollen are mistakenly identified as dangerous. The immune system then rallies its defenses, which include several chemicals to attack and destroy the supposed enemy. In the process, some unpleasant and, in extreme cases, life-threatening symptoms may be experienced in the allergy-prone individual.

What Does an Allergist Do?

Allergists are qualified to diagnose and treat conditions like hay feverfood allergies and intolerances, eczemapsoriasis, asthma, and certain types of sinus and ear infections, among others.

To treat allergies effectively, the allergist must first determine what is triggering the reaction. An allergist consults with their patient and performs a series of tests in order to discover specific allergies, determine their severity, and figure out the best course of treatment. This will vary depending on the substance.

These tests help the allergist diagnose and treat their patients appropriately. Allergists can then prescribe treatment, which may be as simple as avoiding an allergen — or as complex as undergoing immunotherapy and carrying an epinephrine pen.

Reasons to See an Allergist?

There are many types of allergies, and they don’t always make themselves obvious. There are a number of signs that you might benefit from visiting an allergist, including:

OTC Allergy Medications Don’t Work

If you already know you have “hay fever” or other seasonal allergies, you may still benefit from visiting an allergist. If you find that common over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications aren’t controlling your allergy symptoms effectively, then an allergist can prescribe stronger medications to help you mitigate symptoms.

Chronic Snoring or Insomnia

Many allergies cause significant inflammation in the sinus cavity. This can make it difficult to breathe while you’re asleep, which can lead to snoring or insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping or snore a lot, you may want to visit an allergist to determine whether allergies are the cause.

Chronic Sinus or Ear Infections

While allergies themselves aren’t caused by bacteria or viruses, they can make you more prone to infections. The inflammation caused by certain allergies can block your sinuses or eustachian tubes, keeping them from draining.

This creates the perfect environment for ear infections or sinus infections. If you regularly experience either problem, consulting with an allergist may help you prevent them from happening again.

Frequent Unexplained Mouth and Throat Irritation

Food allergies do not always lead to dramatic symptoms like peanut or shellfish allergies often do. Instead, they may just lead to regular itching and soreness of the mouth, face, or throat. Minor food allergies or intolerances may be hard to diagnose without the help of an allergist who is trained to test you for food allergies safely.

Types of allergy problems?

An allergic reaction may occur anywhere in the body but usually appears in the nose, eyes, lungs, lining of the stomach, sinuses, throat, and skin. These are places where special immune system cells are stationed to fight off invaders that are inhaled, swallowed, or come in contact with the skin.

Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

Allergic rhinitis is a general term used to describe the allergic reactions that take place in the nose. Symptoms may include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and itching of the nose, the eyes, and/or the roof of the mouth. When this problem is triggered by pollens or outdoor molds, during the Spring, Summer, or Fall, the condition is often called “hay fever.” When the problem is year-round, it might be caused by exposure to house dust mites, household pets, indoor molds, or allergens at school or in the workplace.

Asthma

Asthma symptoms occur when airway muscle spasms block the flow of air to the lungs and/or the linings of the bronchial tubes become inflamed. Excess mucus may clog the airways. An asthma attack is characterized by labored or restricted breathing, a tight feeling in the chest, coughing, and/or wheezing. Sometimes a chronic cough is the only symptom. Asthma trouble can cause only mild discomfort or it can cause life-threatening attacks in which breathing stops altogether.

Atopic and Contact Dermatitis/Hives/Skin Allergies

Atopic and contact dermatitis, eczema, and hives are skin conditions that can be caused by allergens and other irritants. Often the reaction may take hours or days to develop, as in the case of poison ivy. The most common allergic causes of rashes are medicines, insect stings, foods, animals, and chemicals used at home or work. Allergies may be aggravated by emotional stress.

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a rare, potentially fatal allergic reaction that affects many parts of the body at the same time. The trigger may be an insect sting, a food (such as peanuts) or a medication. Symptoms may include:

  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • a dangerous drop in blood pressure
  • redness of the skin and/or hives
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the throat and/or tongue
  • loss of consciousness.

Frequently these symptoms start without warning and get worse rapidly. At the first sign of an anaphylactic reaction, the affected person must go immediately to the closest Emergency Room

What to Expect at the Allergist

When you go to the allergist, they’ll talk with you to learn more about when your allergic symptoms are most common. They may also perform a series of tests to identify specific allergens.

Testing may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Patch tests
  • Skin tests
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Nasal smears

These tests typically use very small amounts of allergens to determine which allergens, if any, trigger an immune response.

Once these test results come back, they will recommend a course of action. Minor allergies may be simply treated by avoiding the allergen or taking OTC antihistamines. Most allergies are the result of your immune system releasing excessive histamine, especially allergies to pollen and dander. If avoiding these substances isn’t possible, then an allergist may prescribe a stronger medication to prevent symptoms.

More severe allergies may involve a more serious course of treatment. For people with severe allergies or people who have previously experienced anaphylactic shock, allergists may prescribe an epinephrine pen for use in emergencies.

They may also recommend immunotherapy treatments for chronic allergies. This is a course of treatment that carefully desensitizes your immune system to specific allergens.

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