Allergic rhinitis, also known as Hay Fever, is a type of inflammation in the nose which occurs when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air. Signs and symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, red, itchy, and watery eyes, and swelling around the eyes. The fluid from the nose is usually clear.
Allergic conditions can range from being an occasional nuisance to being severe and even life threatening. Allergies are one of the leading causes of absenteeism at work and school and can significantly impact quality of life. Poor diagnosis and undertreatment can result in increasing severity and frequent "attacks". While some people find that allergy symptoms come and go, others are affected year round. Many people with allergic rhinitis also have asthma, allergic conjunctivitis, stomach and intestinal disturbances, contact dermatitis, eczema and hives.
Substances capable of producing allergies are called allergens. The most common allergens include pollen, dust mites, mold, animal dander, insect stings, latex, and certain food and medications. Inherited genetics and environmental exposures contribute to the development of allergies. Growing up on a farm and having multiple siblings decreases the risk. The underlying mechanism involves IgE antibodies attaching to the allergen and causing the release of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine from mast cells.
The first step in treating an allergic patient is to detect which substances of allergens are the major offenders. Testing allergens on the skin will identify possible suspects. MQT combined with intra-dermal testing is used most often in our office. MQT (Modified-Quantitative Testing) is a simple skin test that is applied to your forearm. It does not break the skin and is virtually painless. Intradermal testing involves injecting an antigen just beneath the skin and reading the reaction. This test is also quite simple and virtually painless.
There are two basic methods of treating allergies. First, remove the allergen from the patient’s environment (avoidance) and control symptoms by drugs; or, second, attempt to build up the patient’s resistance to the allergens to which they are sensitive by injections of small amounts of antigen at regular intervals (immunotherapy).