Allergic Rhinitis (nasal allergy) is caused by the presence of allergic antibodies (IgE). Allergic antibodies can arise in response to dust mites, cockroach droppings, pet dander, molds, as well as seasonal pollens such as: Mountain Cedar (Dec-Feb.), Spring Trees (Oak /Pecan), Summer grasses, and Fall weeds (Ragweed / Pigweed).
Testing for allergic sensitivities (by detection of IgE) can be done reliably either by blood testing (RAST / IMMUNOCAP) or by skin testing. Skin testing is quicker, less expensive to perform, and believed by some experts to be more reliable than blood testing however; occasionally, blood testing will identify the presence of IgE that is missed by skin testing. Skin testing at our office is done with a sharp multi-head plastic device (Quantitest) that introduces the allergens into only the outermost layer of the skin. Our needleless "prick" skin testing device causes no bleeding and most children over the age of 5 do not cry during testing. (Although at this age, the girls are typically tougher than the boys).
The reactivities noted on skin testing are then matched with the patient's reported clinical history to determine the most clinically relevant allergic trigger(s). At times, skin testing provides useful information for directing environmental avoidance measures; intervention that can reduce allergic symptoms caused by dust mites and pet dander allergy. Knowing which allergens can cause allergy in an individual is tremendously helpful in the medical management of asthma and other allergy-related conditions. For instance, if nasal symptoms are occurring in the Spring however, prior testing for sensitivity to spring tree pollens and molds was negative, then the physician is more likely to treat a symptomatic patient with antibiotics for a possible sinus infection than to recommend additional allergy medications.
Nasal symptoms are occasionally caused by unusual sensitivity to environmental irritants (Non-allergic Rhinitis). Persons who suffer from NAR typically report intolerance of tobacco smoke, perfumes, and chemical odors. NAR occurs more commonly in older adults than in children.
Q; What are allergy shots and how are they given?
Immunotherapy (Allergy shots) are used by physicians to turn-off the ability of allergic antibodies to cause nasal symptoms, asthma and sometimes anaphylaxis (bee and fire ant stings). Beneficial immunological changes are induced by gradually injecting higher and higher amounts of allergen into the body. For safety reasons, allergy shots begin with very low levels of allergen in the "build-up" phase; in which 24 shots from 3 progressively more potent dilution vials are typically given once or twice a week (Build-up typically requires 3 months to complete) . Once the strongest concentration vial is reached (called the "maintenance" vial) injections are typically recommended at a frequency of twice per month for 2-3 years. If allergy shots are provided at the recommended doses (Per Joint Task Force recommendations www.JCAAI.org *Practice Parameters for Immunotherapy), allergy shots can induce a long-term remission of symptoms and can potentially cure nasal allergies, allergic-triggered asthma and life-threatening sensitivity to bees and fire ants. Allergy shots are never used to treat food allergies.
*Affordable Allergy solutions does not offer immunotherapy for severe bee sting allergy, contact: Alamo Asthma & Allergy Associates for this service (www.AlamoAsthma.com)