Allergy symptoms appear when the immune system reacts to an allergic substance, treating it as an unwelcome invader. With each allergic occurrence, the immune system produces antibodies that recognize the allergic substance. When an allergen reenters the body, the immune system rapidly recognizes it and triggers a series of reactions including inflammation and histamine, resulting in the most common allergic symptoms including itchy or watery eyes, nasal and sinus congestion, headaches, sneezing, scratchy throat, hives, and shortness of breath. Other less common symptoms can occur, including balance disturbances, skin irritations such as eczema, and asthma.
Some allergy symptoms are seasonal or when exposed, but others cause year-round discomfort. Controlling allergy symptoms often requires multiple management approaches, used simultaneously, including minimizing exposure, desensitization with allergy shots, nasal rinses, and medications.
The most appropriate person to evaluate suspected allergies is an otolaryngologist. At NoVa ENT, our doctors gather a detailed history and complete a thorough examination to determine if infection or structural abnormality (such as a deviated septum) is contributing to symptoms. The doctor may advise testing to determine the specific allergens and determine if immunotherapy or allergy shots may be needed.
We offer both allergy shots and sublingual therapy in our office. For more information on allergy testing, see our Frequently Asked Questions.
Food and Drug Allergies
Symptoms of ingested allergies can range from itching, swelling, and rashes to severe allergic reactions that include dizziness, trouble swallowing or breathing, abdominal cramps, vomiting and loss of consciousness. The most common food allergies can occur from ingesting peanuts, shellfish, milk, soy, fish, eggs and wheat, while the most common drug allergies are to penicillin and other antibiotics.
Allergic contact dermatitis commonly results from contact with adhesives, topical antibiotics, ingredients in many personal products and cosmetics, fabrics and clothing, fragrances in perfumes, soaps, and moisturizers, nail polish, dyes, nickel or other metals, poison ivy and other plants, rubber, and latex. The reaction can be delayed, with a rash appearing more than a day after exposure, or may be immediate, with hives and swelling.
Common environmental allergens include dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold, and cigarette smoke.These triggers can cause allergic rhinitis, or inflammation in the nose and sinuses, atopic dermatitis and respiratory swelling resulting in coughing, wheezing and asthma. Because it’s often impossible to avoid these airborne allergens, treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and sensitivity.