Charlottesville Allergy & Respiratory Enterprises
434-295-ASAP (2727) 1524 Insurance Lane, Suite B, Charlottesville, Virginia 22911

Allergic Reactions in Charlottesville

Allergies often remind you about sneezing, runny nose or watery eyes. While these constitute the symptoms of some types of allergic diseases, an allergic response is actually a result of a chain reaction that begins in your genes and is expressed by your immune system. For example, if you have an allergy to pollen, your immune system identifies pollen as an allergen. It then reacts to the allergen's presence by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, thus causing an allergic reaction along with the manifesting symptoms. Such reactions then produce or are associated with symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin. Each type of IgE has a specific response for each type of allergen. This explains why some individuals are only allergic to one allergen while others respond to multiple allergens. Interestingly, a family history of allergies is believed to be the single most important factor that puts you at risk of developing allergic disease.

Types of Allergic Disease
Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergic disease, and the numbers are increasing. There are several types of allergic disease, some of which are listed below:

Allergic rhinitis may be seasonal or year-round. The seasonal form is commonly called "hay fever." It typically occurs in the spring, summer or fall. Common symptoms include sneezing, stuffy or runny nose and itching in the nose, eyes or on the roof of the mouth. On the other hand, when the symptoms are year-round, they may be caused by exposure to indoor allergens such as dust mites, indoor molds or pets.

Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when eyes react to offending allergens. Allergic conjunctivitis is associated with symptoms of redness, itching and swelling.

Atopic dermatitis also known as eczema, results from allergen exposure to your skin. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include itching, redness and flaking or peeling of the skin. In up to 80% of individuals with atopic dermatitis, symptoms begin in childhood. It is believed that over 50% of those with atopic dermatitis also develop asthma.

Urticaria, commonly known as hives, is characterized by itchy red bumps that can coalesce together. Hives are often triggered by certain foods or medications.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. Up to 78% of individuals with asthma also have allergic rhinitis. When you experience asthma symptoms, your inflamed airways become narrowed, making it more difficult to breathe. If you have allergies, inhaling allergens may cause increased swelling of your airway lining and further narrowing of your air passages. Asthma may also occur as a result of respiratory tract infections or exposure to irritants like tobacco smoke. The role of allergy in asthma is greater in children than in adults.

Food allergies: People with food allergies may have severe and possibly life-threatening reactions if they eat those foods. Some of the common triggers include proteins in cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and tree nuts.

Anaphylaxis: Food, medications, insect stings and exposure to latex can trigger Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that comes on quickly, causing mild to severe symptoms that affect various parts of the body. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include a feeling of warmth, flushing, tingling in the mouth or a red, itchy rash. Other symptoms may include feelings of light-headedness, shortness of breath, throat tightness, anxiety, pain/cramps and/or vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, you may experience a drop in blood pressure that results in a loss of consciousness and shock. Without immediate treatment with an injection of Epinephrine (Adrenalin), anaphylaxis may be fatal.

Sinusitis and otitis media are other common allergic diseases often triggered by allergic rhinitis. Sinusitis is a swelling of the sinuses, which are hollow cavities within the cheek bones around your eyes and behind your nose. Otitis media (ear infection) is the most common childhood disease requiring physician care. If not properly treated, it can affect a child's speech and language development.

Diagnosing and Treating Allergic Reactions
Your allergist is best qualified to treat allergic diseases. To determine if you have an allergy, your allergist will take a thorough medical history and do a physical exam. He may perform allergy skin testing, or sometimes blood testing, to determine the offending allergen. Once your allergy triggers are identified, your allergist will help you establish a personalized treatment plan, that will help you feel better and live better.

(Information only; not intended to replace medical advice; adapted from AAAAI)