Allergies are a common condition affecting more than 1 out of every 5 people. Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system triggered by a typically harmless substance. This substance, such as pollen, mold or animal dander, is known as an allergen. When a person is exposed to an allergen, their bodies produce a response and release a variety of chemicals including histamine and interleukins. Since most allergens are found in the air, the reaction occurs in the eyes, nose and lungs. If the allergen is ingested, the reaction can occur in the mouth or stomach. People with asthma are more likely to suffer from allergies.
Most allergic reactions result in mild symptoms that include sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, post nasal drip, headaches, sore throat, cough, watery eyes, itching or rashes. Allergies can be perennial (all year long) or seasonal (spring allergies) and only cause reactions during certain times of the year. These allergies can be affected by the weather.
Here in Houston, screening for spring allergies is available. This is important in determining the cause of your troubling symptoms, and also in identifying the specific allergens that trigger your reactions. Identifying the specific cause of your symptoms lets you avoid these triggers as much as possible to reduce the frequency of symptoms.
The most common and accurate ways to identify allergens is through skin prick testing, intradermal skin testing or a combination of both. Skin tests use specific allergens to see if they trigger reactions on the skin. A tiny amount of the allergen in introduced to the skin, and the reaction on the skin determines if there is an allergy present and its severity. In patients who are unable to be skin tested, blood testing can be considered. Blood tests screen the blood for IgE antibodies to specific allergens. While blood tests can screen the body for a wide range of allergies, they are not as sensitive as skin tests.