Fall is full of amazing things: cooler weather, beautiful and colorful leaves, football season, and…allergies?!?! Two out of every ten Americans suffer from allergies. Although specific allergies cannot be inherited, people can inherit the tendency to be allergic. If one parent suffers from allergies, their child develops a 50 percent chance of inheriting allergies. If both parents have allergies, those odds increase to 75 percent.
Tena Miller, PA-C, from Dr. Cornel’s Internal Medicine office in Jersey Shore comments, “Allergies account for more than 17 million physician office visits, 30,000 emergency room visits, and several hundred deaths each year. Individuals with allergies are also at heightened risk for other diseases, including asthma.” Quest Diagnostics’ recent report “Allergies Across America” found that:
- Allergen sensitization is increasing (6% over the 4 year study period);
- Sensitization to 2 common environmental allergens is increasing – ragweed (+15%) and mold (+12%); and
- Allergens have a disproportionate negative effect on children (2:1 vs. adults).
Dr. Reynaldo Cornel defined allergies as “an abnormal response of the immune system, which reacts to a usually harmless substance such as pollen, mold, animal dander or food.” A person can be exposed to these allergens by inhaling them, swallowing them, or getting them on or under their skin.
When suffering from a common allergic reaction, a person can have a number of symptoms including:
- Itchy eyes
- Runny nose
- Feeling tired
Your symptoms can vary depending on what you’re having an allergic reaction to. Food allergies have more internal reactions such as stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Symptom severity can range from very mild, almost even unnoticeable, to severe. Moderate allergic reactions can make you feel as though you have a cold or the flu, while more severe reactions can be debilitating. While most symptoms do not last long after the exposure to the allergen stops, the most severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, can be life threatening. Anaphylaxis reactions cause whole-body symptoms that include:
- Hives and itching all over
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Tightness in the throat
- Tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp
- Swelling of the face and/or lips
“Anaphylactic symptoms progress quickly,” says Tena Miller, PA-C. “If you or a friend is experiencing an anaphylactic allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.”
Finding the cause of allergies can be as easy as realizing you sneeze every time you get close to a flower. However, some allergens are harder to detect. An allergist can perform many different tests to help you find your trigger. These tests include skin testing, blood tests, or just the process of eliminating and re-introducing certain allergens in order to find those triggers. Skin testing is the most common and the most helpful. Skin testing involves exposing skin to certain allergens over an extended period of time to observe reactions. Once allergens are detected, prevention can involve taking certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines, although the best prevention is avoiding your triggers altogether if possible.
More severe and anaphylactic reactions may require the use of an auto-injector pen, more commonly known as an EpiPen. This shot contains a premeasured dose of epinephrine. If you suffer from severe, life-threatening allergies, carry this with you at all times and inject yourself with the medication immediately after being exposed to your trigger allergen.