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Asthma and Allergies

The Causes and Treatments of Allergies

While it’s true that asthma and allergies are more common in children, they can occur for the first time at any age. Sometimes allergy symptoms start in childhood, disappear for many years, and then start up again as an adult.

The origins of allergies

Although the exact genetic factors aren’t understood, there is a hereditary tendency to asthma and allergies. If your parents both have allergies, you’re more likely to have them. In susceptible people, factors such as hormones, stress, smoke, perfume, or other environmental irritants also may play a role.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), an allergic reaction might occur anywhere in the body, but usually appears in the nose, eyes, lungs, lining of the stomach, sinuses, throat, and skin.

If you feel like you’re always getting sick, with a cough, itchy or red eyes, or head congestion, consider seeing an allergist. Often, the symptoms of asthma or allergies develop gradually over time.

Allergy sufferers may become used to frequent symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, or wheezing. With the help of an allergist, these symptoms usually can be prevented or controlled, bringing major improvements to quality of life.

How an allergist can help

Effectively controlling asthma and allergies requires planning, skill, and patience. Allergists are specially trained to develop a treatment plan for your individual condition. The goal is to allow you to lead a life that is as normal and symptom-free as possible.

A visit to an allergist might include:

  • Allergy testing – Your allergist will usually perform tests to determine the substances to which you are possibly allergic (known as allergens).
  • Prevention education – Often, the most effective approach to treating asthma or allergies is to avoid the factors that trigger your symptoms. Even when it is not possible to completely avoid allergens, an allergist can help you decrease exposure to them.
  • Medication – There are new and effective medications available to treat both asthma and allergies, including biologics to treat asthma, atopic dermatitis (eczema), and chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps.

Immunotherapy can be given as allergy shots or sublingual (under the tongue) tablets.

  • Allergy shots are given to patients every week or two and contain some or all the allergens that cause their allergy problems. Gradually, the injections get stronger and stronger. In most cases, the allergy problems become less and less severe over time.
  • Under the tongue tablets are only available for allergies to ragweed, grass pollens, and dust mites. They are taken daily at home, but the first dose is taken at the allergist’s office.

When to see an allergist

See an allergist if:

  • Your allergies are causing symptoms such as chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion, or difficulty breathing.
  • You experience hay fever or other allergy symptoms several months out of the year.
  • Antihistamines and over-the-counter medications do not control your allergy symptoms or create unacceptable side effects like drowsiness.
  • Your asthma or allergies are interfering with your ability to carry on day-to-day activities.
  • Your asthma or allergies decrease the quality of your life.
  • You are experiencing warning signs of uncontrolled asthma such as:
    • You sometimes struggle to catch your breath.
    • You often wheeze or cough, especially at night or after exercise.
    • You are frequently short of breath or feel tightness in your chest.
    • You have previously been diagnosed with asthma, and you have frequent asthma attacks even though you are taking asthma medication.

An allergist can help you live the life you want by creating a plan specially tailored to address your allergies. Use the Find an Allergist tool on the ACAAI website to locate an allergist near you.

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