Asthma and allergies are two of the most common health problems in America. Approximately 50-55 million Americans suffer from asthma, hay fever, eczema, food allergies and other allergic disorders.
You should schedule an appointment with an allergist if your asthma or allergic disorders are not controlled by over the counter medications or current prescription medications.
Board certified allergists are medical doctors who complete three years of internal medicine or pediatric training, and then go on to complete two- to three more years of fellowship training. Allergist are trained to diagnose and treat conditions ranging from uncontrolled runny nose and congestion to severe immune deficiency disorders.
Let’s talk about a few conditions for which you should see an allergist:
Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever): Allergic rhinitis plagues many Americans. If your allergies are not controlled by over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines (Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, Benadryl, etc.) or nasal steroids (Nasacort is approved OTC, and Flonase will be available OTC in 2015), you should schedule an appointment with an allergist. An allergist will evaluate your allergy triggers and suggest treatments accordingly. Treatments may include medications, sublingual (under the tongue) allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Allergen immunotherapy is a very effective long-term allergy treatment, and 85-90 percent of patients experience relief with this treatment.
Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis: Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, a term used to describe an itchy rash. “Atopic” refers to a tendency to develop allergies to certain triggers. An allergy occurs when a person reacts to triggers like mold or pollen, which would not typically cause a reaction in most people. When people come into contact with something they are allergic to (an “allergen”), they may develop symptoms such as an itchy rash. This is called an allergic reaction. An allergist will perform skin tests to determine a person’s sensitivity to various food and environmental allergens that may be triggering or worsening eczema symptoms.
Asthma: Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs. It varies in severity from a few episodes requiring only an Albuterol inhaler, to repetitive episodes requiring daily medications and oral steroids.
Asthma is defined as “extrinsic” and “intrinsic,” depending on whether your symptoms are triggered by external factors or not. Environmental allergens (ie, trees, grass, dust mites, or pet dander) may trigger or worsen the severity of your asthma. You should see an allergist to determine whether your asthma is extrinsic or intrinsic. Treating your allergies can significantly improve your asthma, and even result in taking fewer asthma medications! Allergists also look for other triggers affecting your asthma, and treat these issues accordingly. A realistic asthma goal should be to participate in all your desired daily activities, with minimal medication side effects!
Source: Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. 2014. http://www.aafa.org