You may think of allergies as those annoying episodes of sniffles and sneezes that come around every spring or fall and make your life miserable for a month or two. While that may be the case for many people, allergic reactions can also be more severe or even life-threatening. If you struggle with allergies, the allergists and immunologists at Penn Medicine Becker ENT in Cape May Court House, NJ, can help.
What is an Allergy?
Allergies affect both adults and children. An allergy is an immune system response to a foreign substance in your body that should be safe and harmless to inhale or ingest. The substance may include food products, pollen dust, or dander. Immunologists refer to these substances as allergens.
An allergic reaction is a response by the body when it encounters an allergen. Allergic reactions occur when your body perceives a harmless allergen as harmful.
The immune system’s response depends on the type of allergen involved. For example, some allergens may cause minor inflammation, while others result in frequent sneezing. In some cases, allergens may trigger life-threatening reactions. However, early intervention at Becker ENT in Cape May Court House can help reduce allergic reactions and make life safer and more comfortable.
Symptoms of Allergies
According to expert immunologists, the symptoms of allergies will differ depending on the type and severity of the allergy:
You may experience swelling, nausea, fatigue, and bloating. The symptoms may be persistent even after taking other forms of medication. If you experience serious reactions after a meal, a food allergy may be a top possibility. An immunology expert in Cape May Court House, NJ, will help you find the exact cause of your reaction.
Skin reactions may be a sign of either an external cause or an internal reaction. For instance, a food allergy may cause rashes as well as contact exposure to an allergen. Types of skin allergies include:
- Rashes: Characterized by red, irritated, swollen, painful, or itchy skin.
- Eczema: Inflamed skin patches making the skin itch and weep.
- Burning and itching: Irritation and stinging sensations on the skin.
- Hives and contact dermatitis: Raised welts that are red and itchy appear immediately after contact. They may appear in various sizes and shapes.
- Sore throat and swollen eyes: Eyes may appear swollen, puffy, and itchy. The throat area feels inflamed making it hard to swallow or talk.
Seasonal allergies may mimic the symptoms of a cold. Runny nose, swollen eyes, and congestion are common. They are easily managed as compared to severe allergies.
Severe allergies causing anaphylaxis are life-threatening. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, or unconsciousness. If you experience severe symptoms after coming into contact with an allergen, reach out to an allergy doctor or an immunologist immediately.
What Causes an Allergy?
According to immunology experts, allergies have a genetic component. This means that the issue can be passed from parents to their children. However, it does not necessarily mean that a specific allergen will be passed down. For example, if a parent is allergic to fish, it does not mean that the child will be allergic to fish, too.
Common allergens we treat patients for in Cape May Court House include:
- Animal dander/hair and related allergens like dust mites and insect stings.
- Drugs such as Sulfa drugs and penicillin.
- Foods like wheat, nuts, milk, shellfish, and eggs.
- Plant substances including pollen, weeds, grass, plant resins, and trees.
Other allergens may include latex in gloves and metal like nickel. These allergies are generally managed with avoidance alone.
Available Allergy Treatments in Cape May Court House, NJ
In cases where staying away from triggers is impossible, an immunologist or an allergy doctor may be able to help patients manage their symptoms with a variety of treatment options. For the residents of Cape May Court House, options include antihistamines, corticosteroids, or decongestants. Our immunology experts can also offer immunotherapy or emergency epinephrine for severe cases.
These medications decrease the effects of histamine (released by the body during an allergic reaction) to treat symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itching, nasal swelling, and hives. They are sedating in nature and should be taken under prescription.
These are used to treat swelling and inflammation or asthma. They are used to treat ongoing symptoms by mimicking the effects of cortisol. This means that they reduce the effects of inflammation.
Corticosteroids are available in nasal, oral, inhaled, or injected forms. Working with an immunology expert will help you to determine the best form of treatment for your condition.
For patients with nasal congestion, stuffy nose, or clogged sinuses, decongestants are administered to help reduce sinus pressure. They cause the blood vessels to constrict. This relieves the congestion caused by dilated blood vessels along the nasal passage.
Other forms of medication
Other treatment options include leukotriene modifiers. An allergy doctor may only recommend these when there are no other suitable treatment options. This is because taking them increases the risk of behavioral and mood changes such as suicidal thoughts. These drugs are not sold over the counter in Cape May Court House, NJ.
Many people prefer immunotherapy to medication, as this treatment plan can often eliminate allergies entirely. The process involves a series of allergy shots given consistently over a few years. These injections help the body to adjust and get used to the allergy. When carried out by a certified allergy doctor, immunotherapy often prevents allergy symptoms from reoccurring altogether.
This is not a treatment for allergies, but it is essential for people with a history of severe allergic reactions. An emergency epinephrine shot is used to counter the effects of a life-threatening allergic reaction as the patient awaits medical help from an immunologist. Early intervention and diagnosis may help in reducing these symptoms and avoiding life-threatening reactions.
It is a sudden life-threatening immune system reaction. The immune system overreacts in a sudden and severe way. It is more prominent in people with certain allergies. Allergens that may cause this condition include insect stings, latex, peanuts, and medications.
Rhinitis is the proper medical term. It refers to inflammation of the nasal passages. It occurs in both adults and children.
The symptoms include sneezing, itching, runny nose, and post-nasal drip. Symptoms are more severe in children and adults between the age of 30 and 50 years. However, the severity varies depending on the seasons.
Allergens may take a few days, weeks, or hours to disappear. However, continued exposure may last for long periods, even when coupled with adequate treatment.
Immunology experts theorize that allergies can disappear. This may be because of continued exposure, which makes the body accustomed over time. The immune system can develop tolerance, making it recognize the allergen as harmless.
Although the symptoms may seem similar, the following are notable differences. With allergies, symptoms appear after exposure, change in season, or environment. Body aches occur during a cold which is not the case in allergic reactions. People with allergies develop prolonged symptoms while colds last just a few days.
Treating Your Allergies in Cape May Court House, NJ
Allergic reactions can be simple or complex, easy to treat, or complicated. If you live around Cape May Court House, NJ, our certified immunologists can help you determine the cause of your symptoms and to differentiate between sensitivity and a full-blown allergy. We can also teach you how to manage your allergy symptoms so that you can avoid possible complications.
We treat a wide range of responses including runny nose, hives, skin rash, watery eyes, lung conditions, and life-threatening anaphylaxis reactions. Our immunologists are dedicated to children and adults in Cape May Courthouse, NJ. Call (609) 899-7200 to schedule a consultation or book an appointment online.