According to research, the number of allergic disease cases is growing rapidly. Although the predisposition to allergic conditions is mostly hereditary, certain risk factors like increased pollution, improper nutrition, and irrational use and/or overuse of medicines can also have an impact.
At Northway Medical Centres, experienced allergologists and clinical immunologists offer professional consultations on various allergic diseases, and provide accurate diagnostics and treatment for allergies in adults and children.
What are the common symptoms of an allergy?
According to specialists, the most common symptoms include:
- Sneezing, a runny (watery) nose, stuffy nose, itching, anosmia;
- Red eyes, tearing (watery eyes);
- Hives, swollen, itchy skin;
- Dry cough, breathlessness;
- Diarrhea or constipation, bloating, pelvic pain;
- Headache, dizziness, low blood pressure.
Allergy specialists point out that you should see an allergist if the above-listed symptoms have become chronic, occur repeatedly within a year – or last longer than usual – and there are no other reasons to explain them. Often these symptoms manifest sporadically, for example, in a certain environment or during a specific season (spring) or time of the day (at night or early morning). If you have noticed symptoms of an allergy, you should immediately seek the medical advice of an allergist.
What type of health conditions does allergology diagnose and treat?
An allergy is an immune system response to a foreign substance that’s not typically harmful to your body. These foreign substances are called allergens and they are typically present in your surroundings. They can get into your body through food, airways, injections, or insect bites.
The most common allergens include foodstuffs, pollen, dust mites, pillow feathers, pet dander (cat’s, dog’s, etc.), microscopic fungi, medicines, and chemical substances (household chemicals, cosmetics).
Allergists diagnose and treat the following allergy diseases: hay fever, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis, atopic eczema, oedema, hives, food allergy and allergies caused by environmental factors, anaphylaxis, and other types of diseases manifested in the form of impaired immunity.
There are effective treatments for allergy diseases or specific therapies which reduce their symptoms. If an allergy is diagnosed accurately and on time, these therapies can significantly improve the quality of a patient’s life. Doctors aim to detect the allergen that causes the allergic reaction. It can be done with the help of specific allergy diagnostic testing.
Allergies affect people differently. Allergic diseases may be caused by an impaired immune system. As a result, the immune system may respond too strongly or too weakly. If it responds too strongly, it causes allergies. If an allergy is left untreated, it will cause chronic allergic inflammation, and thus lead to infections. For example, untreated allergic rhinitis (runny nose) often causes recurring infections in the ear or sinuses.
It is important to note that only highly-skilled and experienced specialists in allergology and clinical immunology can assess the manifestation, course, and severity of every patient’s disease; develop a patient-tailored examination plan, identify what causes the impairment of the immune system and allergic diseases; prescribe effective treatment and improve the patient’s quality of life.
What treatments does allergology offer?
For most types of allergies, doctors offer treatments that reduce allergic symptoms. However, there is an effective allergen-specific immunotherapy for the treatment of respiratory allergies (for example, to dust, pollen, mold, domestic animals). It is the only allergy treatment that treats its root cause, not just the symptoms. Allergen-specific immunotherapy is based on the systematic training of a patient’s immune system to the identified allergen through the gradual administration of repeated doses of the allergen to induce tolerance in the immune system. Immunotherapy can significantly or completely reduce the symptoms of the allergy and improve the patient’s quality of life.
Immunotherapy works for as much as 80% of respiratory allergies. However, if it doesn’t help to completely treat the allergic disease, it will induce long-term tolerance in the immune system, preventing progression and complications of the disease.
When should you do allergy testing?
- Your child has a rash or atopic dermatitis, but it is unclear whether he/she has food allergy or not. The best way to address this question is skin prick testing (also called puncture test) using native food allergens, and food allergy patch testing. If you suspect that you have an allergy to certain foods, you should bring berries, some fruit, and vegetables with you to the consultation.
- If you have atopic dermatitis, you are most probably allergic to some specific chemical substance. For this reason, it could be useful to test for the 30 most common European allergens with food allergy patch testing.
- If you often have a rash or it lasts for a long time without a specific reason, but you haven’t tested for allergies to chemical substances, it is recommended to do a patch skin test for the allergens of the European/Cosmetic standard patch test series.
- If you use a lot of cosmetic products and have a rash that comes and goes away, it is advisable to do a patch skin test for the 63 cosmetic allergens and your cosmetic products.
- If you suspect your child has an allergy to milk and wheat, it is recommended to take skin prick and patch tests for these allergens. You can also do a blood test to measure allergen-specific antibodies called immunoglobulin to milk and eggs.
- If you have a runny nose, dry cough, or breathlessness, and have gone through various tests, including for allergens, but haven’t determined the reason, and often use latex gloves at home or work, you should find out whether you are allergic to latex.
- If your child has difficulty breathing at night or has swollen adenoid tissue, it is advisable to take a Respiratory Allergy Panel test because the allergy won’t necessarily disappear after a adenoidectomy (surgical removal of the adenoids).
- If you are planning to adopt a cat or a dog, but your close relatives are allergic to domestic animals, it is advisable to take a skin prick test and/or blood test to measure allergen-specific antibodies called immunoglobulins.
- You are taking antihistamines in spring, summer or maybe throughout the year? Or use nasal sprays due to allergic rhinitis? In this case, you should consider allergen-specific immunotherapy.
- If you regularly experience seasonal eye inflammation, it is advisable to test for allergy to pollen.
- If you often cover your nails or the nails of other people with nail polish or apply fake eyelashes and experience a rash on the skin that refuses to go away, you should test for an allergy to formaldehyde or hydroxyethyl methacrylate.
- If you or your children suffer from acute sinusitis or pneumonia more than twice a month or have an ear infection more than four times a month, or have molluscum contagiosum spread on the skin, have warts that don’t go away or are resistant to treatment, suffer from constant diarrhea or have a developmental delay, it is advisable to test for possible immunodeficiency.
Although food allergies usually manifest themselves in infancy or early childhood, they can suddenly emerge at any age. There are cases where a product that has been consumed for years without causing any symptoms can one day become the root cause of an allergy.
Although allergists state that food allergies are not hereditary, having a single family member or close relative with a history of allergic disease increases the likelihood of developing an allergy. Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe. Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of an allergic reaction, potentially life-threatening. If it occurs, it can damage several systems of the human body, including the skin, respiratory system, blood circulation, and digestive system.
The most common symptoms of a food allergy include hives, swelling, and a rash. Infants may experience spitting up or diarrhea as well. Typically, food-related symptoms occur within two hours of ingesting the allergenic food. However, it is quite common for an allergy to manifest immediately after eating or coming into contact with the food.
If you have noticed these symptoms or suspect that you may have a food allergy, it is recommended that you consult an allergist or clinical immunologist. These medical specialists can order the necessary tests and, if a food allergy is confirmed, prescribe appropriate treatment and provide professional recommendations to help you effectively manage your own or your child’s health.
Northway, a modern Medical Centre, offers the most comprehensive food intolerance testing, which includes testing for other types of allergens. They also provide food intolerance tests such as ImuPro, thorough consultations, and personalized treatment plans delivered by experienced allergists.