As the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, allergies affect more than 50 million Americans. Allergies are also on the rise, meaning an ever-larger percentage of people will develop them with each passing year. No matter what you’re allergic to, allergist Bernard Geller, MD, Ph.D., and Sanny Chan, MD, Ph.D. at Allergy and Clinical Immunology Medical Group in Santa Monica, California, diagnose, treat, and help you manage your allergies. Call the office or schedule an appointment online to learn more.
You can think of your immune system as a kind of internal shield designed to protect you from illness-causing bacteria and viruses. When your immune system overreacts to substances like pollen, dust, animal dander, and mold, it triggers an allergy attack. Any substance you’re allergic to is called an allergen.
Allergies are a chronic condition, meaning they last for a long time or they occur often. Anyone can be born with an allergy or develop one during their lifetime. Although allergies generally can’t be prevented, you may be able to prevent an allergic reaction by doing your best to avoid the allergen.
Hay fever, asthma, conjunctivitis, hives, eczema, dermatitis, and sinusitis are the most common allergic conditions. Food allergies, which are more common in children, often disappear with age. Certain medications can also cause allergic reactions. Latex allergies are common, too, as are allergic reactions to bee, hornet, wasp, and yellow jacket stings.
Although symptoms of an allergy attack are often felt in the respiratory tract, including your nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs, they may also affect your skin, ears, or the lining of your stomach. For some people, an allergic reaction can also trigger asthma symptoms.
The intensity of your symptoms depends on the severity of your allergy. Someone with a peanut allergy can experience anaphylaxis, a life-threatening emergency, while someone with mild hay fever may just have watery eyes and a scratchy throat.
Common allergy symptoms include:
Allergies can generally be diagnosed in two general steps, starting with a comprehensive review of your medical history and a physical exam. After you undergo a variety of tests to identify your specific allergens, your provider can reach a conclusive diagnosis, including an accurate assessment of the severity of your allergies, and develop a treatment plan that works for you.
In addition to teaching you how to best avoid your allergens, allergy treatment strategies may also include medication or immunotherapy, a long-term treatment approach that trains your immune system not to overreact.