Millions of Americans suffer from allergies, commonly known as hay fever. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people have allergies. Many ear, nose and throat complaints are due to allergies. An ear, nose, and throat specialist can help determine if you have underlying allergies and help develop a management plan that will help make life more enjoyable.
What are allergies?
Allergies are an abnormal response by your immune system to a substance that is normally harmless. When this substance, known as an allergen, is inhaled, swallowed, or comes in contact with your skin your immune system defends your body by releasing chemicals to attack what it thinks is an invader. This causes a chain reaction in your body that then produces symptoms such as runny nose, itching, rashes, watery eyes, etc.
What causes allergies?
The cause of allergies remains unknown; however genetics play a role. If one parent has allergies, his or her child is much more likely to have allergies. If both parents have allergies, a child has a very high chance of developing allergies. The specific thing that a child is allergic to may be different than their parents. Allergies may develop over time after prolonged exposure to an allergen.
What are common allergens?
Pollens, mold, dust, feathers, animal dander, foods, chemicals, venoms and medications commonly cause allergic reactions.
Pollens are substances released by plants seasonally. Seasonal allergens include grasses, trees, and weeds. Early springtime allergies are most often caused by pollens to trees. Summer pollens come from grasses. Late summer and fall allergens include weeds. Flowering plants rarely cause allergy symptoms. Often fragrant flowers are blamed for the uncomfortable symptoms, yet they are rarely the cause; their pollens are too heavy to be airborne.
Certain allergens are present all year long. These include dust mites, pet dander, and molds. Symptoms caused by these allergens are often worsen in the winter when the house is closed up, due to poor air ventilation.
Mold spores also cause allergy problems. Molds are present all year long and grow both outdoors and indoors. Dead leaves and soil are common sources for outdoor molds. Indoor plants, old books, bathrooms, and damp areas are common sources of indoor mold growth.
What are the Symptoms of Ear, Nose and Throat Allergies?
People often think of allergy as only “hay fever,” with sneezing, runny nose, nasal stuffiness and itchy, watery eyes. However, allergies can also cause symptoms such as chronic “sinus” problems, nasal drainage (postnasal drip), congestion, hoarse voice, eczema (skin allergies), recurring ear infections, hearing loss, cough, asthma, stomach and intestinal problems, as well as excessive fatigue and headache, can be symptoms of allergy.
How are allergies tested?
There are several ways to identify what a patient is allergic to. Allergy testing can be performed through skin or blood testing. The skin test is an excellent diagnostic tool that measures which allergen causes an actual reaction and provides detailed information. Blood testing can provide limited information but may be recommended based on other medical conditions. The purpose of allergy skin tests is to confirm the presence of allergies and to select an allergen for avoidance or immunotherapy.
At Comprehensive ENT, we offer allergy testing to patients aged 5 and older. We test a comprehensive panel of allergens based on the most common environmental allergens in the area. These include trees, molds, grasses, weeds, dustmites, and pet danders.
Allergy testing is well tolerated by patients, even the youngest patients. We utilize the Modified Quantitative Testing (MQT) method. Our staff perform prick testing on the forearm and intradermal testing on the upper arm for our older children and adults.
Testing allows us to determine if allergies are present, what a patient is allergic to, and how severe their allergies are. We can then discuss treatment options including environmental avoidance of allergies, medication options, and immunotherapy options.
How are allergies treated?
For some allergy sufferers, symptoms may be seasonal. For others, allergies produce year-round symptoms. Symptom control is most successful when multiple approaches are used together to manage the allergy. This may include reducing exposure to allergens, medications, and allergy shots or drops (immunotherapy).
What is immunotherapy?
Patients who are unable to obtain relief in their symptoms by reducing exposure to allergy triggers and with medications may be candidates for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy retrains your immune system to no longer react to allergens by introducing very small amounts of the allergen into your body over a period of time. Immunotherapy may be accomplished either with allergy shots (also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT) or with drops under the tongue (known as sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT).
Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT)
- Treatment: allergy shots
- Administered: In your physician’s office
- Frequency: Weekly
- Payment: Covered by most insurance plans
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)
- Treatment: Drops taken orally
- Administered: In your home
- Frequency: Daily
- Payment: Not covered by insurance; out-of-pocket expense for patient
Who should treat my allergies?
An Otolaryngic Allergist is able to diagnose and treat disorders of the upper respiratory tract (ear, nose, throat etc.) caused by allergic conditions. Because the Otolaryngic Allergist is an ear, nose, and throat surgeon and specialist (ENT), other non-allergic diseases of the upper respiratory tract can also be efficiently diagnosed and treated. Half of the problems that an ENT doctor encounters are probably caused, either directly or indirectly, by allergy. Chronic nasal congestion and post nasal drip are often allergic and may be complicated by chronic sinus and middle ear disease. Hearing loss, sore throats, and ear infections may be due to allergy. The ENT doctor who does his/her own allergy treatment is able to follow the patient’s progress with specialized examinations and medical and surgical treatment, such as polyp removal, placement of middle ear ventilating tubes, straightening of the nasal septum, and treatment of sinus disease.
Allergy Testing information