An allergy begins when your immune system is oversensitive and perceives a harmless substance as a threat. Then the next time you’re exposed to the same substance, the immune system releases histamines, which trigger a variety of reactions that cause all the classic symptoms. Allergies are caused by many different substances, called allergens, including:
Contact allergens: Things you touch like poison ivy, soap, jewelry, and latex.
Airborne allergens: Substances such as pollen, mold, and dust that you breathe in.
Insect stings: Allergens injected into your skin by a bee, wasp, or other insects.
Pet allergies: Allergies to pets with fur are common.
Medications: Any medication can cause an allergic reaction; penicillin is one of the most common.
Food allergies: Most food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs and milk, but other foods can cause allergic reactions in some people as well.
If your allergies are mild and easy to control with an over-the-counter antihistamine, you may never need to get tested. On the other hand, even mild allergies cause enough sneezing, nasal congestion and wheezing to make you miserable — symptoms you don’t need to tolerate if you get tested and treated at Ballantyne Medical Associates.
If your allergies are moderate to severe, there’s no doubt that you should meet with one of our doctors. A severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening. Don’t wait for a serious reaction to happen Instead, come in and get tested so you’re prepared if you’re accidentally exposed to an allergen. It’s also a good idea to consider allergy testing when:
After the doctors at Ballantyne Medical Associates perform an allergy skin test and know your specific allergens, they provide immunotherapy, as allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy. Many patients must depend on injections because sublingual immunotherapy – a fast-dissolving tablet or liquid placed under the tongue – is currently used to treat only a few grass pollens and ragweed.
Both forms of immunotherapy work the same way. They contain the allergen that affects you, beginning with a small amount and gradually increasing the dose so your body builds enough tolerance to diminish or stop the allergic reaction. Allergy immunotherapy takes time. Even though you’ll get shots less frequently as time goes on, maintenance therapy may last about 3-5 years.
It’s also important to know that allergy immunotherapy doesn’t exist for food allergies. Researchers are hard at work trying to develop treatments, but until they succeed, the only treatment is to diligently avoid the food that triggers your allergy.