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Millions of Americans suffer from allergies every year, with symptoms that fluctuate depending on allergy severity, seasonality, and treatment. While symptoms vary, even mild allergies can disrupt your daily life, causing minor or significant frustration.

Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center has the largest team of (ABAI) board-certified physicians in the Charlotte area to help children and adults with allergies. Our specialists will help you manage your allergies so you can live a stronger, happier, and less disrupted life.

What Causes Allergies?

Allergies occur when your body has an abnormal immune reaction to substances that would not normally cause a reaction in most individuals. If you suffer from allergies, your immune system produces antibodies that identify a particular allergen as harmful. When you come into contact with that allergen, your immune system’s reaction releases histamines and other chemicals that produce symptoms. Depending on the cause of the allergic reaction, allergy symptoms can involve your sinuses, airways, nasal passages, skin, and digestive system.

Both adults and children can suffer from allergies. In most cases, the allergies are lifelong, although some childhood allergies may resolve on their own.

Common Allergy Triggers

Allergies can be triggered by many different substances, but some are seen more frequently in the general population than others. Common allergens include:

  • Dust mites
  • Weed or grass pollen
  • Pet dander
  • Mold
  • Cockroaches
  • Insect stings

Food allergies are also common, with the most frequent food allergies involving milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.

Allergy Symptoms

For some, allergies can simply be a mild, seasonal nuisance, but for others they can be very serious and lead to anaphylaxis or other chronic conditions such as sinusitis and asthma. The most common allergy symptoms people experience include:

  • Skin rash
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Swelling
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis

Allergies symptoms present when you come into contact with an allergen. Most people know and understand their symptoms and their triggers, however, it’s also possible for people to develop new allergies over time. If you notice your body reacting in different ways to specific foods or substances such as pollen, you should see an allergist to discuss your symptoms and see if you have developed new allergies.

Allergy Diagnosis

Some allergies are easy to diagnose. You can come up with a likely answer on your own if you can directly correlate your symptoms with an allergen. For example, if you’re constantly sneezing around cats, it’s likely that you’re allergic to pet dander.

However, some allergies are not as easy to diagnose as others. You could experience symptoms every spring, but not be able to pinpoint what environmental factors, such as tree or grass pollen, are causing your symptoms. At Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center, our allergists will ask questions and run specific tests to determine your allergy trigger.

Allergy evaluations include:

Once we’ve pinpointed the cause of your allergies, we can then develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms or even reduce your sensitivity to the allergen itself.

Allergy Treatment

Antihistamines, which stop your body from producing the histamines that cause allergy symptoms, are the most common type of allergy treatment. Many types of antihistamines are available over the counter.

However, if you have severe or chronic allergies, you may want to look into tailored treatment methods. At Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center, our specialists can evaluate your specific allergy and symptoms to develop an effective plan for treating your allergies. An individualized treatment plan may include medications such as over-the-counter antihistamines or stronger prescriptions, immunotherapy (allergy shots) that reduces your sensitivity to one or more allergens, and recommendations for avoiding allergens in your environment.

Common allergy and related issues that we help treat and prevent include:

Anaphylaxis –Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. Anaphylaxis symptoms include loss of consciousness, a drop in blood pressure, severe shortness of breath, or skin rash. The most common anaphylactic reactions are to foods, medications, insect stings, and latex. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention, so if you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing anaphylaxis, call 911 or head to the emergency room right away.

Allergic Rhinitis – Allergic rhinitis is commonly referred to as hay fever or nasal allergies. Rhinitis occurs when a person breathes in allergens and symptoms typically include nasal itching and stuffiness, sneezing, clear nasal discharge, and itching of the ears or roof of the mouth.

Food Allergy – Food allergies are very common among young children and are often outgrown. Many people confuse food intolerances with food allergies, but they are not one and the same. It’s important for people with true food allergies to find out the cause and take steps to prevent allergic reactions, because they can be very serious. Foods that most commonly cause food allergies include peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame seeds, shellfish, wheat, oats, fish, milk and eggs. Common food allergy reactions can include itching or swelling of the lips or tongue, tightness of the throat with hoarseness, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.

Drug Allergy – The most common drug allergy is penicillin, but all antibiotics can cause reactions. Reactions can range from very mild to life-threatening (anaphylaxis). Less severe symptoms of a drug allergy include hives, skin rash, itching of the skin or eyes, congestion, swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat, and wheezing. More severe reactions (known as anaphylaxis) can cause dizziness, fainting, confusion, difficulty breathing, nausea, or diarrhea.

Insect Allergy– Insect allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to the venom from an insect sting. Insect allergies can cause local swelling, redness, and pain at the site of the insect sting. For those with severe insect allergies, an insect sting may lead to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Insects that sting include yellow jackets, bees, hornets, wasps, and fire ants. If you suspect you or your child may have a venom allergy, it’s very important to identify the insect and acquire the proper medication to have on hand in case of an emergency.

Sinus Disease – Also known as sinusitis, sinus disease is an inflammation, or swelling, of the tissue lining the sinuses that can cause many of the same symptoms as a bad cold. Symptoms include facial pain and pressure, nasal stuffiness, nasal discharge, loss of smell, cough and congestion. Unlike colds, sinusitis is often caused by a bacterial infection and may require treatment with antibiotics.

Allergic Skin Disorders such as Hives, Contact Dermatitis, and Allergic Rashes Skin allergies are common and most people will experience them at one point in their life. A variety of allergens can cause skin reactions, so it’s necessary to identify what you’re allergic to in order to prevent future episodes. Some of these reactions are triggered by substances which have been eaten while others involve things you have touched.

Latex Sensitivity – Latex allergies occur when your body treats latex as an allergen. Natural rubber latex is commonly found in rubber gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands and toys. Symptoms can range from mild irritations such as dermatitis, eczema, and sneezing, to more serious problems including wheezing, shortness of breath and even anaphylaxis.

Allergy Prevention

Most allergy prevention centers on managing your symptoms and avoiding allergy triggers. Taking prescribed medication is key to preventing an allergic reaction. If you have severe allergies, you should also keep epinephrine injector available at all times to treat severe reactions.

You can also prevent reactions and reduce your sensitivity to an allergen through immunotherapy. Also commonly known as one of its two forms, allergy shots or allergy drops, immunotherapy exposes your body to small amounts of an allergy over a long period of time, training your immune system not to react, or to react less severely, to the allergen. Immunotherapy is not a cure for allergies and will not prevent you from developing an allergy, but it can be effective in preventing or minimizing allergic reactions.

If you think you or your child may be experiencing allergy symptoms, schedule an appointment to meet with a board-certified allergist.  An allergist will identify your allergens and determine the severity of your allergies, as well as provide the necessary education and medication.  At Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center, we work closely with our patients to develop and an allergy treatment plan that will keep them safe and provide a better quality of life.