More than 40 million Americans suffer from environmental allergies. Whether seasonal or year-round, environmental allergies can cause a number of symptoms including nasal congestion, sneezing, post-nasal drip, itchy and watery eyes, wheezing, skin rash and hives. In many individuals, allergy plays a central role in the development of eczema, asthma, nasal polyps and chronic sinus infections.
How do you find out what you're allergic to?
When a patient presents with symptoms concerning for allergies, physicians typically offer skin testing to verify the diagnosis. This type of testing involves exposing the skin to a series of common allergens (pollens, molds, dust mites, animal dander) and monitoring for an allergic skin response. Occasionally, blood testing can be performed in individuals who aren’t good candidates for skin testing.
What treatment options are available for allergies?
Environmental allergies are typically treated with a combination of allergen avoidance measures and medications. For those that have symptoms despite these treatments, or desire to decrease their dependence on medications, immunotherapy is a viable option though. Immunotherapy physically treat the cause of allergies by regularly administering small doses of what (the allergen) to which a person is allergic. This leads to increased tolerance to the allergens and reduces allergic symptoms.
The most commonly used method of immunotherapy in the United States is subcutaneous immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots.” Initially, allergy shots require weekly administration in the doctor’s office. Once appropriate, visits are spaced out every two to four weeks for an additional three to five years before discontinuation.
Allergy drops: New alternative therapy
In recent years, another form of immunotherapy, known as sublingual immunotherapy or “allergy drops,” has been increasingly used as an alternative to allergy shots. Treatment involves placing drops of allergen under the tongue on a daily basis. Drops can be safely administered at home and treatment duration is typically four years. Although well-tolerated and proven effective, allergy drops are not FDA-approved and are not covered by insurance.
Regardless of whether medications, allergy shots, or sublingual immunotherapy is the right therapy for you, Ridgeview Specialty Clinic can help you get relief from your allergies.