Allergies are caused by the immune system confusing natural proteins for a harmful invader. Most people hear of allergies and think of common symptoms such as runny noses and sneezing. However, allergies affect the entire body and may manifest differently in each individual.
Patients with allergies are at greater risk of developing new allergies, asthma, skin disorders, digestive disorders, and improper immune response to a variety of pathogens or harmless environmentals. An important part of preventative care is recognizing and treating patients with allergies at the first signs.
The most common and widely known allergy symptoms are associated with the respiratory system.
• Coughing, wheezing (chronic cough)
• Runny nose, sneezing
• Bronchial constrictions and inflammation
• Sinus congestion, inflammation and infections
• Angioedema –swelling of the tongue, throat and tissues surrounding trachea can be life-threatening during anaphylaxis, restricting breathing (treat with EpiPen, call 911)
Other ENT and related complications that can arise are:
• Ear infections, dizziness/vertigo
• Fluid in the ear (serous otitis media SOM or otitis media with effusion OME)
• Nasal polyps
• Sleep apnea
• Watery, itchy eyes and infections
Both food and airborne allergies can wreak havoc on the digestive system. Patients with food allergies often suffer from airborne allergies as well. Treating severe food allergies with immunotherapy can pose greater risk to patients and may be less effective than treating the patient’s airborne allergies. By reducing the inflammation and allergic response, patients often see improvement in symptoms of food allergies from treatment of airborne allergies.
• Abdominal cramping (pain)
• Swelling of lips, tongue, mouth, or throat
• Gas or bloating
• Gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux), heartburn
Antihistamines: Patients use over-the-counter allergy medications (antihistamine) often suffer from:
• Decreased alertness
• Reduced cognitive ability
• Slower reaction time
Histamine causes many of the unwanted inflammatory symptoms associated with allergies, including runny nose, itching, hives. However, histamine is also an important neurotransmitter, regulating wakefulness in the brain. Older generation antihistamines indiscriminately block reception of histamines, causing undesirable side effects listed above.
Allergy effects on the cardiovascular system are among the most dangerous. Allergic reactions may prompt the following:
• Vasodilation, increased blood flow and porousness of blood vessels, sending blood to surrounding tissues
• Severe allergic response and corresponding vasodilation may cause any of these dangerous signs of anaphylaxis. Treatment is EpiPen and call 911.
o Decreased blood pressure, dizziness, feeling faint
o Rapid, weak, and irregular heartbeat
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and secrete powerful hormones –adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline.
EpiPens (Epinephrine): The EpiPen often used in the treatment of severe allergic reaction is an epinephrine injector pen. The epinephrine works by causing vasoconstriction. In a severe allergic reaction the vasodilation causes blood to rapidly flow to surrounding tissues, closing of airways, and dangerously low blood pressure. Epinephrine helps through:
• Vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels and decreasing porousness)
• Reduction in angioedema/tissue swelling
• Improved breathing
• Increased blood pressure
Patients who use an EpiPen may report the following short-term side effects.
• Nausea or vomiting
• Rapid, strong or irregular heartbeat
• Paleness, dizziness, weakness, or shakiness
Integumentary System (Skin)
Symptoms and complications of allergies affecting skin may include:
• Chronic or acute uticaria (hives)
• Itching, burning, or stinging sensations of the skin
• Angioedema –swelling of deeper, underlying tissue
• Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) –characterized by itchy rashes, dry, thickened, scaly or discolored skin
• Allergic Contact Dermatitis – rash caused by direct contact with allergen, such as manufactured perfumes, creams, metals, latex, etc.
• Skin rashes and swelling in any area of the body including eyes, lips, mouth and ears.
If you would like help treating your allergies and all of the related symptoms, contact our office at 865.524.1234. Our immunotherapy system is easy-to-use, less expensive than a traditional allergist, and available for patients as young as 5 years old. Contact us today to get some relief!