More than 45 million Americans have allergies. You can have allergic reactions to several things, ranging from substances you breathe or touch to insect bites, foods, and medications.
One of the most common types of allergy is allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. When you have allergic rhinitis, airborne allergens in your environment cause symptoms that include:
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Watery eyes when sneezing
- Itchy eyes, nose, or mouth
- Skin rashes, including hives or eczema
- Headache and fatigue
The secret to managing your allergies lies in identifying what triggers your symptoms. At Florida Ear Nose Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center, Dr. Wade Han and our team offer skin and blood tests for allergies at both of our Orlando and Kissimmee locations. Once we have this information, we can help keep your symptoms at bay year-round.
Seasonal versus perennial allergies
You can have seasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis. If you have seasonal allergies, your issues typically worsen in the spring, summer, and early fall. And, even though it’s called hay fever, that’s rarely the cause. Season allergies are typically due to a sensitivity to mold spores or pollens from grasses, trees, and weeds in the area. One of the most common culprits of seasonal allergies is ragweed.
Perennial allergies, on the other hand, cause symptoms all year long. These symptoms often come from indoor allergens like dust mites, pet dander or hair, cockroaches, and mold. Allergic rhinitis can also increase your sensitivity to irritants like cigarette smoke, perfumes, and other strong aromas.
You can have both seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis. If you do, we can help you regain control so you can start enjoying life again — all year long.
Identifying your triggers
Whether you have seasonal allergies or symptoms that last year-round, you don’t have to suffer. We offer two forms of allergy testing to determine the cause of your symptoms: skin testing and blood testing.
We use two kinds of skin tests to look for allergic reactions. The first is a skin prick test in our office, where we place tiny amounts of a potential allergen on your skin and gently prick the area. If your skin reacts, it confirms an allergy. The second skin test involves a patch. With this test, we place a patch on your skin containing a potential allergen. After wearing the patch for a few days, you return to our office and we look for signs of irritation.
A blood test for allergies involves collecting a blood sample. Then we look for specific antibodies that your immune system produces in response to allergens. After we diagnose your triggers, we develop a personalized treatment strategy to keep your symptoms under control.
Managing your allergy symptoms
The easiest way to control allergic rhinitis symptoms is to avoid your triggers, but we know that isn’t always an option. Another simple treatment involves using medications, like antihistamines, decongestants, and topical corticosteroids. But, if you have persistent allergies or can’t tolerate medication, we often recommend immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy involves slowly introducing the known allergen to your body so you can build a tolerance to it. We do this is in slow increments to avoid triggering an allergic response, starting with very small quantities. Over several months, we gradually increase the amount until you reach the allergic dose without reacting. Then, we switch to a maintenance dose. This treatment occurs less frequently, typically once a month, to maintain your tolerance and control your allergy symptoms.
We offer two different types of immunotherapy: injections in our office and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) taken under the tongue at home. Each of these approaches is equally effective, but SLIT can be more convenient because it requires fewer office visits and often costs less. SLIT is also safe enough to use on people with high allergic sensitivities, children, and those with asthma. In addition to treating allergic rhinitis with immunotherapy, we can also use it to help with chronic non-severe food allergies.
To start managing your allergies year-round, call us at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery or schedule an appointment online today.