Did you know that more than 50 million people experience allergies every year? Affecting an estimated 30% of adults and 40% of children, allergies are one of the most common health issues people navigate today. Fortunately, allergies can be effectively diagnosed and managed with treatment. At Midwest Ear Institute we provide comprehensive testing and treatment options that can minimize the impact of allergies, improving overall health and wellness in your daily life.
What are Allergies?
Allergies are produced by the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when the body comes into contact with an allergen, a typically harmless substance, which it identifies as potentially threatening. To neutralize the allergen, the immune system activates its line of defense which is intended to protect the body.
This response system includes creating allergic antibodies (immunoglobulin E) that target and eliminate the allergen by having cells release chemicals including histamine into the bloodstream. The overreaction to this allergen creates the symptoms associated with having allergies: sneezing, watery eyes, congestion, scratchy throat, swelling, difficulty breathing, etc.
Numerous types of allergens can trigger an allergic reaction. Knowing what you are allergic to and reducing your exposure to that allergen is the best way to prevent reactions. Some of the most common allergens include:
- Pollen. The most common source of allergies is pollen (also known as hay fever). Pollen is a substance that is made by plants (trees, grasses, weeds) to fertilize other plants. The production of pollen occurs seasonally, with the Spring being the time with the highest pollen count.
- Dust mites. Dust mites are tiny organisms or microscopic insects that live in homes. This includes bedding, furniture, carpet, etc.
- Mold. Mold is a type of fungi that grows in both indoor and outdoor spaces that retain more moisture. Dark and damp places where mold can typically exist include bathrooms, basements, garbage cans, etc.
- Pet dander. It is commonly assumed that cat and dog fur is what produces allergies. But actually, it is the proteins in the animal’s skin that shed (called dander) that are the source of the allergen.
Other allergens include foods. The most common foods that people are allergic to are cow’s milk, fish, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy. The best way to identify an allergen is to undergo testing which our practice offers!
Testing for allergies is an important way to identify the underlying allergen that is producing your symptoms. Our healthcare providers facilitate a skin test which is an effective diagnostic tool. It involves penetrating the skin and inserting small amounts of common allergens beneath the surface of the skin. This allows us to quickly see how your body reacts to the substance. If there is irritation, this indicates an allergy to that specific substance. Skin tests are not painful and also allow for multiple allergens to be tested during one appointment. Once your allergens are identified, we can discuss treatment options to effectively manage symptoms.
In addition to working with you to learn ways that you can reduce your exposure to allergens, we provide different therapies that alleviate allergies. This includes:
- Immunotherapy: this long-term treatment solution involves injecting gradually increasing doses of the allergen. This allows the patient to build up a tolerance to the allergen, becoming less sensitive to the allergen over time. The incremental increase of the allergen that is injected prevents the body from producing the antibodies that create the allergic reaction. Patients can experience noticeable changes in their allergies as soon as six months after receiving their first injection. Most people receive immunotherapy for three years, after which their allergies have eased. We will create an immunotherapy plan for you, outlining a schedule for injections.
- SLIT: Sublingual immunotherapy works similarly to standard immunotherapy. Rather than injecting small doses of the allergen, SLIT involves giving the allergen drops under the tongue. Patients place drops under the tongue daily and the dosage of the allergen increases typically for the first four months while tolerance is growing. After that, the same dose is applied to maintain immunity. Also, unlike immunotherapy shots which are conducted in the office, SLIT drops can be self-administered at home which offers convenience.
At Midwest Ear Institute, our providers work with you to establish the best treatment plan for your health needs. Our practice is invested in providing services that alleviate allergies so that you can navigate your days easefully.