Written by: Emma Squillace
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, approximately 50 million people in the United States have allergies. Not only do allergies affect a large number of people, but it appears that the percent of people who have allergies is increasing. Currently about 30% of adults have nasal allergies, and about 40% of children. There are several major types of allergies, like allergies to food and medications. But nasal allergies are the type that we treat with most often at West Medical. Every year we treat many people who are looking for an accurate diagnosis of potential allergies, and for understanding of their treatment options. Here are 5 terms that our patients often don’t know, but can help in understanding an allergy diagnosis and treatment plan.
Rhinitis means inflammation of the mucous membranes inside your nose. Although some people use this word to mean ‘nasal allergies,’ there is a clinical difference. It is possible to have rhinitis without having allergies. Some people have symptoms like a runny nose and chronic sneezing, but do not have apparent allergies that would cause these symptoms. In this case, the rhinitis is called “non-allergic rhinitis.” One clue that rhinitis is caused by allergies is if it’s accompanied by symptoms like itchy eyes or itchy throat. In most cases, this itch is a sign of allergic reaction. Non-allergic rhinitis can be triggered by a range of causes from medication like antidepressants and oral contraceptives, to spicy foods. If you have rhinitis, we can test to see if allergens are the likely cause.
You’ve probably heard the word Hay fever, but do you know what it means? Hay fever means allergic rhinitis. This condition can include a combination of some of the typical symptoms of nasal allergies including:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Stuffy nose/congestion
- Excess mucous
- Ongoing sneezing
- Sinus pressure
By getting a diagnosis to confirm which allergens are causing your hay fever, you can do your best to avoid the substances. In many cases, it is impossible to fully avoid causes of hay fever, but there is a range of treatment options that work for many people.
A histamine is a chemical that your body makes. Histamines can be helpful because they help protect the body from harmful foreign substances. However, when histamines mistake harmless things like dust or pollen, as dangerous, these histamines are the cause of much allergy suffering. What happens is your histamines think they’ve encountered an ‘enemy’ if you come in contact with something you’re allergic to. They fly into defense-mode, to protect you. This causes typical allergy symptoms like itching, watery eyes, coughing, and runny nose. One way to treat allergies is with medications called antihistamines. These medicines calm the histamines down, and often lessen allergy symptoms.
Immunotherapy is a treatment for allergies, that can be very effective for some people. During immunotherapy treatment, we introduce a small quantity of the allergen that causes you trouble. By exposing you to just a small amount, we stimulate the immune system and help it build up defenses. With immunotherapy, over time you will be exposed to slightly higher quantities to keep building up your body’s defenses. Often this can train your body to act appropriately when faced with allergy triggers. At West Medical we offer immunotherapy as weekly injections or as an oral medication.
SLIT is short for sublingual immunotherapy. This is a newer form of allergy treatment, and is a type of immunotherapy that is given in drop form. SLIT is convenient and effective. You can take the drops yourself, at home, which saves you from coming to our offices for allergy shots. Like injections, SLIT helps your body become more accustomed to allergens, so you don’t have the same level of symptoms over time.
At West Medical, we offer a wide range of allergy treatments. People who suffer from allergies can often find a treatment that is safe and effective. The first step is to come in and get tested, so you have an accurate diagnosis. From there we can help you understand your treatment options. If you’d like to come in and talk to our allergy experts, give us a call today at (855) 690-0565.