Do you have a stuffy nose, itchy eyes, or constant congestion? These could be signs of allergies.

The team at Maryland ENT is here to help you get the relief you need to enjoy the world around you.

What are Allergies?

Allergies are an immune system response to substances the body does not recognize, like pollen, pet dander, dust, certain foods, or insect venom. Your immune system makes a special protein called antibodies. Their job is to protect your body from infection, viruses, and other diseases.

Antibodies identify unknown substances in the body, like viruses or bacteria, and treat them like threats. They fight to eliminate them from the body, assuming that they are dangerous.

This immune system’s defensive response to a common cold, infection, or other sickness might manifest as a fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, or even vomiting and diarrhea. In people with allergies, the antibodies have identified the unknown substance of the allergen and assume it is dangerous, even though it isn’t.

They treat harmless substances (like tree pollen) as threats, and the immune system flares up in defense, leading to coughing, sneezing, narrowing of the airway, watery eyes, itching, and more. Allergic reactions can be mild, moderate, and even severe.

Severe allergic reactions, like anaphylaxis, can be life-threatening and must be treated immediately. Many factors determine whether or not someone has allergies and, if they do, how severe the allergies may be.

Anyone can have allergies; they can emerge in childhood or later when you are an adult. Allergies can be hereditary and environmental. That means that the tendency to have allergies can be passed down from parent to child, but allergies can also be caused or worsened by your environment.

Symptoms of Allergies

Allergies to different things can cause various allergic reactions. Some of the most common allergies are to pollen, mold, dust, pet dander, bee stings, and foods like nuts, dairy, gluten, and shellfish.

Generally, allergies to pollen, pet dander, dust, or other particles may lead to:

  • Sneezing
  • Itching of the nose, eyes, or roof of the mouth
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Watery, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)

An allergy to a food or a medication can cause:

  • Tingling in the mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat
  • Hives, rash, or itching
  • Wheezing or tightness in the throat or chest
  • Anaphylaxis (lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, severe shortness of breath, decreased blood pressure and pulse)

An allergic reaction to an insect sting (like a bee) might produce:

  • Significant swelling around the sting
  • Itching or hives near the sting or all over the body
  • Cough, chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis (lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, severe shortness of breath, decreased blood pressure and pulse)

Allergy Testing

There are different kinds of allergy tests, but the most common are skin prick allergy tests. This type of test is a reliable and effective method for diagnosing allergies.

In skin prick allergy tests, your ENT allergist at Maryland ENT will scratch or prick your skin with a thin needle containing a tiny amount of each suspected allergen. After each skin prick test, you will be monitored for a skin reaction to each tested allergen.

How Do You Treat Allergies?

While there is no known cure for allergies, many things can be done to relieve allergy symptoms. Over-the-counter medications such as nasal steroid sprays, nasal antihistamines, oral antihistamines, decongestants, and saline sprays help manage allergy symptoms.

These types of medications may control allergies temporarily but do not change the body’s response to the allergen. Allergy therapy, also called “immunotherapy,” is when a small, safe amount of the allergen is introduced into your body gradually over time, either through allergy shots or allergy drops.

Gradually introducing the allergen over time helps the body become more used to it and learn that it is not a threat. Allergy therapy desensitizes the body to the allergen and ultimately decreases the immune system’s response to the substance you are allergic to, reducing overall symptoms. You can work with your provider at Maryland ENT to decide which treatment method is best for you.

Allergy Shots

The most common and well-researched type of allergy therapy is subcutaneous immunotherapy or allergy shots. Allergy shots are scientifically proven to decrease sensitivity to allergens that cause allergy symptoms and can reduce the severity of allergy symptoms.

To experience the full benefit of this type of immunotherapy, you must attend regular allergy shot appointments over an extended period (usually every 1-2 weeks over a few years). Most people experience gradual relief from symptoms after one month of weekly allergy shots.

Over 80% of people experience some relief from allergy shots.

Allergy Drops

While allergy shots require frequent visits to your ENT specialist, sublingual immunotherapy, or allergy drops, can be taken at home. Allergy drops are similar to allergy shots but are delivered by placing a droplet under the tongue instead of receiving a shot.

You’ll receive the first dose in-office at Maryland ENT. After the initial dose in the office, the drops are taken at home, with increasing dosages every day.

Like allergy shots, allergy drops increase your exposure to the allergen in a safe dose and help desensitize your immune system to the allergen. Over time, allergy drops can decrease your allergy symptoms.

Because you can take allergy drops at home, they are ideal for various patients, especially people who travel often or cannot visit the allergist regularly. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves allergy drops.

However, the FDA has not yet approved the under-the-tongue administration method. Your ENT specialist may still recommend this allergy treatment as the best method for improving your symptoms.

Because the method of delivery of this treatment has yet to be FDA-approved, it may not be covered by insurance. Despite this, its cost is still comparable to allergy shots.

Are you ready to get relief from allergies? Learn more by requesting an appointment at Maryland ENT in Lutherville and Baltimore, MD!