Allergies in Houston
In Houston, TX, allergy season is bad every year. Worldwide, the prevalence of allergic rhinitis, over the past 50 years, has been trending higher — more so in developing countries. But, allergies are more commonplace in the United States. And, about 6.1 million children and 20 million adults are affected by allergic rhinitis, reports The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates.
ALLERGIES DEFINED — WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY AFFECT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?
If you're looking for the allergies definition, this is probably the best one to describe the term: Allergies are your body's damaging immune response to a substance like a certain food, dust or pollen to which it's become hypersensitive.
Your immune system creates antibodies. With allergies, your immune system creates antibodies that determine a certain allergen is harmful, even if it's not. If you come into contact with this allergen, the reaction of your immune system is to inflame your skin, sinuses, digestive system and airways.
Each person will experience different severities of allergies, which can range from a mild irritation to anaphylaxis (a potential life-threatening emergency). Although there's no cure for most allergies, there are treatments that help ease your allergy symptoms.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF ALLERGIES?
There are various types of allergies, including:
Allergies of the skin could be a symptom or sign of an allergy. Or they can be a direct result of allergen exposure. For instance, if you eat a food you're allergic to, you can experience several symptoms such as tingling in your throat and mouth or you could develop a rash.
However, contact dermatitis is the reaction of your skin directly touching an allergen like when you touch a plant or a cleaning product.
Some types of skin allergies are:
- Rashes: Red, swollen or irritated areas of the skin that may also be itchy or painful.
- Hives: Itchy, red and raised welts of different shapes and sizes that develop on your skin's surface.
- Eczema: Skin patches that can bleed, itch and become inflamed.
- Swollen eyes: Itchy, watery or "puffy" looking eyes.
- Burning: Skin inflammation leading to stinging sensations and discomfort on your skin.
- Sore throat: Throat or pharynx is inflamed or irritated.
- Itching: There's inflammation or irritation in your skin.
Rashes are the most common symptom of skin allergies. You can get skin allergy tests in Houston.
- Allergy or Intolerance: Food intolerances or food allergies affect just about everybody at some point. Individuals often have an uncomfortable reaction to something they eat and are concerned they have a food allergy.
- Casein Allergy: If a slice of pizza or glass of milk causes hives, swollen lips or other symptoms, you could be having an allergic reaction to casein (a protein in milk). Whey is another protein in milk linked with allergies. Some individuals are allergic to both whey and casein.
- Milk Allergy: If you have a milk allergy, the only way to avoid a reaction like hives, wheezing or vomiting is by strictly avoiding milk, milk products and food containing milk.
- Nut Allergy: When suffering from a nut allergy, you need to strictly avoid nuts, including walnuts, peanuts and cashews. You'll need to avoid food containing nuts as well.
- Egg Allergy: Both adults and children often have egg allergies with reactions ranging from mild to severe.
- Wheat Allergy: Since wheat is in a lot of things, it can be hard to avoid.
- Fish Allergy: Your doctor may have you avoid all types of fish if you're allergic to one kind of fish.
- Shellfish Allergy: The same goes for shellfish; you may need to avoid all types of shellfish if you're allergic to one type.
- Soy Allergy: With a soy allergy, you not only need to avoid soy sauce and tofu, but also soybeans which is a huge part of processed foods.
- Sulfite Sensitivity: Sulfites are sulfur-based compounds that might naturally occur or might be added to food to act as a preservative and enhancer.
Types of respiratory allergies are:
- Summer Allergies: Grasses, weeds and pollen often trigger summer allergies.
- Spring Allergies: While you can curb spring allergies through certain household habits and medication, you can't cure them.
- Fall Allergies: Mold, ragweed, and dust mites are huge fall allergy triggers.
- Winter Allergies: In the wintertime, indoor allergies like dust mites and mold may become worse since you're spending most of your time indoors.
- Hay Fever: Also referred to as allergic rhinitis, hay fever is an immune disorder marked by an allergic reaction to grains, pollen and other substances. There are a couple types: perennial, which occurs year round and seasonal, which occurs during certain times of the year when some plants pollinate.
- Dust Allergies: These little creatures stir up a lot of problems, despite you not even being able to see them.
- Mold Allergies: Everyone, every day is exposed to some mold and typically without issues. However, if you're allergic to it, you could have a reaction when around it too much.
- Cat Allergies: Around 10 percent of the population in the U.S. has pet allergies, with cats being the most common culprits.
Other types of allergies are:
- Allergic Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): A highly common, but treatable eye condition in both adults and children.
- Drug Allergies: Many medicines can have side effects, some trigger allergies.
- Penicillin Allergies: Penicillin is used for clearing up bacteria-causing infections and has been for many, many years. But, some individuals, unfortunately, have bad reactions to it.
- Aspirin (Salicylate) Allergies: When allergic to the chemicals salicylates, you have to avoid certain medications, foods and other products.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ALLERGIES?
The allergy symptoms you experience are due to several factors, including what allergy you have and how severe it is. For instance,
- Food allergies can trigger hives, nausea, swelling, fatigue and more. It could take some time before an individual realizes they have a food allergy. After a meal, if you experience a serious reaction and you're not sure why, seek medical attention immediately. They'll treat your reaction and figure out what caused it. They'll likely refer you to a specialist as well.
- Seasonal allergies can trigger hay fever symptoms that often mimic symptoms of a cold like runny nose, congestion and swollen eyes. In many cases, you can manage these symptoms by yourself using OTC medicines. If they become unmanageable, you'll want to see an ENT specialist.
- Severe allergies can lead to anaphylaxis. This life-threatening emergency can result in lightheadedness, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness. After you've come in contact with a potential allergen and you begin to experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Everyone will experience symptoms and signs of an allergic reaction differently. If you take medicine prior to any of these anticipated allergic responses above, you might still experience the symptoms, but the medicine might reduce them.
WHAT IS AN ALLERGIST AND WHEN TO SEE AN ALLERGIST IN HOUSTON?
So, your next question may be, "what is an allergist?" According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, the allergist definition is a physician with specialized training to diagnose, treat and manage a variety of conditions, such as:
These conditions can be common or rare, span all ages and encompass different organ systems.
Allergist/immunologist is the official title and this field of medicine requires not only a bachelor's degree, but nine years of additional study. Physicians wanting to work in this specialty must go through two years of fellowship studies in the proper allergy/immunology training program too.
When would you see an allergist?
Some types of allergies and their symptoms don't require treatment, like a mild case of hay fever. You can sometimes control your allergies with the occasional use of an OTC medicine. But, in some cases, allergies can decrease your quality of life and interfere with your daily activities.
If you tend to feel like you're constantly becoming sick with head congestion or a cough, it's time to set up an appointment with an allergist. In a lot of cases, symptoms of allergies gradually develop over time.
Individuals suffering from allergies could become used to chronic symptoms like nasal congestion, sneezing or wheezing. However, these symptoms can often be avoided or controlled with a huge improvement in the quality of life with the help of an allergist.
To control allergies effectively, however, it requires a plan, skills and patience. An allergist with their specialized training and expertise can tailor a treatment plan for your individual symptoms, enabling you to lead a more normal and symptom-free life.
HOW TO TREAT ALLERGIES IN HOUSTON
Request an appointment with an allergist if:
- Your allergies are causing symptoms like chronic nasal congestion, sinus infections or difficulty breathing.
- You're experiencing allergy symptoms, like hay fever, several months out of the year.
- OTC medications and antihistamines aren't controlling your allergy symptoms or are creating unpleasant side effects like drowsiness.
- Your allergies are affecting your quality of life.
- Your allergies are interfering with you carrying out everyday activities.
- You're frequently feeling tightness in your chest or shortness of breath.
- You're coughing or wheezing, particularly after exercise or during the night.
- You sometimes struggle catching your breath.
Allergies can even be life-threatening. You'd first want to seek emergency treatment for this and then see an allergist.
If you're asking yourself "where is there an allergist near me" — chances are you having been suffering from allergy symptoms for some time now and we outline several locations in Houston below.
WHAT’S INVOLVED IN ALLERGY TESTING AND DIAGNOSIS?
Allergists are trained to look at the entire picture: your overall health, your family history and your symptom history so they can put it all together with specialized diagnostic tests to come up with an official diagnosis and set up your own personalized treatment plan.
The allergist will first begin by asking you some questions about your allergy symptoms and your family and personal medical history. Some questions they may ask are:
- When was the first time you noticed symptoms?
- How long did your symptoms last?
- What made your symptoms worse or better?
- Have you had episodes of difficulty breathing or wheezing?
- Do you have a history of sneezy, runny, itchy or congested eyes or nose?
- Do you have itchy skin or skin rashes?
- Does any of your close relatives have allergy, eczema, asthma or colds that linger for several months?
- Have you noticed any reactions after eating certain foods like runny nose, skin rash, stomach discomfort, itchy mouth or difficulty breathing?
If your symptoms indicate an allergy, the allergist will most likely perform some allergy tests. They'll choose which allergens to test for based on your symptoms and your work and home environment.
Allergists don't typically conduct "full-spectrum" allergen tests since results can be misleading and make false positives more common. This is where the test results could be positive, but you're not experiencing symptoms when you're actually exposed to the allergen. Too many false positives in food allergy tests can prompt you to unnecessarily limit your diet, potentially affecting your nutrition. A correct allergy diagnosis will combine test results with your personal symptom history.
The skin prick test is the most common type of allergy test. The allergist will prick a tiny amount of liquid allergen onto your back or arm and if a small raised bump appears, it means you're sensitized to it. It's a quick test, usually, about 30 minutes, is accurate and can often be done in the one visit.
In some cases, the allergist will recommend a blood test. Usually, this is done if you're unable to undergo skin tests for some specific reason, such as a medicine regimen could affect the reaction of the skin or you have sensitive skin. Blood tests are sent to a lab and processed.
ALLERGY DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
After the allergist makes the diagnosis, they'll work closely with you to tailor up an individualized treatment plan which will likely combine things like:
- Non-medical therapies: These are ways of easing symptoms without having to use medication, like eye drops or nasal washes. This could also include using HEPA vacuum filters.
- Allergen avoidance: Taking steps to reduce your exposure to allergens like reducing dust in your home, reducing exposure to pets, reducing exposure to mold or outdoor pollens or changing family habits.
- Immunotherapy: Making the decision to add allergy shots to your treatment plan doesn't usually come during your first appointment, unless you're having a life-threatening reaction to something like a snake bite or insect venom. The allergist will consider immunotherapy later on in your treatment plan based on how severe and frequent your symptoms are, how you're responding to medicines and allergen avoidance — how many allergens are unavoidable.
DOES INSURANCE COVER THE TESTING AND TREATMENT OF ALLERGIES?
One area of concern for many individuals is whether or not there is insurance coverage of allergy testing and treatment. Fortunately, many insurance plans cover the testing and treatment of allergies.
To completely understand your policy, you have to know its terms and conditions such as copays, deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, specific testing protocols, and more. Not knowing these things can result in you paying for a service you thought was covered. The best way to learn your specific allergy testing and treatment coverage is to call your health insurance concierge.
CONTACT US TODAY TO FIND YOUR ALLERGY RELIEF
Allergies can affect your quality of life significantly. When you don't have your allergy symptoms under control, it can lead to chronic ear and sinus infections, poor sleeping patterns and reduced productivity at work or school. You don't need to suffer with the symptoms of allergies. Come see us and let us treat you so you can begin feeling like a normal person again.
Houston ENT and Allergy continues to grow in various Houston locations and surrounding areas. Each of our clinics use innovative, state-of-the-art instrumentation and equipment, along with professional, highly trained staff. We have a select group of physicians joining our practice regularly that bring with them the most up-to-date and latest skills, procedures and related specialties.