Allergic conditions affect millions of people in North America. They 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.
Allergies can be broken down into three different types: Inhalant, Food, and Chemical. 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.
Allergy symptoms may include:
- Chronic sinus infections
- Recurrent ear infections
- Post nasal drip
- Chronic cough
- Itchy eyes/nose
- Fullness in the ears
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. Intra-dermal testing involves injecting an antigen just beneath the skin and reading the reaction. This test is also quite simple and virtually painless.
An accurate and close observation over a long period of time of the patient’s environment, habits and diet may help identify allergens.
The physicians of CBENT test for inhalant and food allergies. Inhalant allergies are tested for using skin testing or RAST (blood). You have already been tested in some fashion for inhalant allergies, and the results of that testing were used to create allergy serum for injections for you.
Based on the results of your test and the severity and the persistence of your allergies, you may be placed on immunotherapy and instructed on how to avoid certain allergens. However, there is the possibility that you may just begin avoidance and urged to continue your antihistamine. This is a decision that is made by you and your health care provider.
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).
What Is Avoidance?
The elimination of the offending allergen from the patient’s environment is the method of treatment that is preferred. If the allergen is animal hair, the offending animal is removed from the patient’s environment. If it is food, the food is restricted or eliminated. If it is house dust, one can curtail the dust in the sleeping area and the rest of the house wherever it is possible.
In such cases, the amount of relief from symptoms is directly proportionate to the thoroughness with which the allergens are eliminated.
What Is Immunotherapy?
The second method, which is referred to as Immunotherapy may be necessary when the offending allergen cannot be avoided. This type of treatment is utilized when the sensitivity is to airborne seasonal pollen grains, mold spores, and dust. It is obvious that when these factors are present, their complete elimination is impossible.
Does Immunotherapy Work?
Yes! Immunotherapy is very successful. It has been shown that 90% of patients who are consistent with their treatment have shown significant improvement.
How Long Does It Take?
Full treatment will take 3-5 years. In the beginning of your treatment, you will need to return once a week for an injection. However, once a maintenance level has been reached you will probably only need an injection every 1-2 months. This may also change depending on you.
How Long Does It Last?
Before beginning immunotherapy you must remember that this is not a cure for your allergies. The amount of time you will be symptom free is directly proportionate to the amount of time you’ve been treated. If you have been treated for four years than the likelihood of having at least four years without symptoms is extremely high.
“I never have to take antihistamines, decongestants, or prescription intranasal sprays ever again.”
You will probably, from time to time need to take one or more of these medications. Especially the first year of your treatment. Remember, the goal of immunotherapy is to build your immune system up to resist the allergens you are allergic to. Until, you have reached a maintenance level you will probably need additional therapy to control your symptoms.
“I’ll never have to take shots again once I get better.”
You will start feeling better in about 6 months to a year. However, if shots are then stopped you will start having symptoms again.
“Missing one shot will not set me back that much.”
Missing a shot will set you back quite a bit. We understand that you have a life and that coming to the office once a week will create some problems; therefore we are here to work something out for you. Our goal is to make you feel better and we will do everything we can to achieve this.
Franklin, VA 23851