Tips & Advice
What is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?
A true food allergy happens when a body's immune system perceives a certain food as harmful and reacts by causing symptoms in multiple organs. The most severe food allergies can result in anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening. In contrast, symptoms of food intolerance (such celiac disease, or intolerance to lactose or gluten) are less serious and often limited to the digestive tract.
What is allergy skin testing?
Allergy skin testing uses tiny pricks in the skin to check for allergic reactions, typically to pollen, mold, pet dander, dust mites, and foods. Also called a skin prick, puncture, or scratch test, the procedure can test up to 40 different substances at one time. In adults, the test is usually done on the forearm; in children it is typically done on the back. The severity of the allergy is determined by the size of the raised, red, itchy bump (wheal) around the prick site. Skin testing is not painful, as the prick is extremely tiny, but it can be very itchy if your skin responds to the allergen. After the test, a nurse wipes the area with alcohol, which eases itching.
Does an allergist need to be board certified?
Board certification is a voluntary process. To become board certified, an internist or pediatrician must first complete at least two years of additional study an allergy/immunology training program. Then he or she must pass a certifying exam administered by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI). Board certified specialists participate in continuing education to keep up with the latest medical science and technology and with best practices in patient safety and quality healthcare. There are approximately 4,500 board certified allergists/immunologists in the United States.
When should someone see an allergist?
See an allergist if allergy symptoms (runny nose, cough watery eyes) last for more than three months and don’t respond to over-the-counter drugs, or if with frequent sinus or ear infections or headaches. With other health issues (heart, liver, kidney, or thyroid disease, glaucoma, diabetes, or prostate problems), speak with an allergist and your primary care doctor before taking over-the-counter allergy or cold medication.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflamed and narrowed airways. Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and coughing at night or early in the morning. Children are more likely to have asthma than adults. An asthmatic person always has asthma, but will only experience asthma attacks if an allergic reaction or other hypersensitivity triggers bronchial spasms in the lungs. A severe asthma attack can be fatal.
Allergy shots, also called allergen immunotherapy, desensitize a patient to an allergic trigger by including a small amount of the allergen in each shot. Allergy shots are long-term treatment that can decrease symptoms for people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy), food allergies, or stinging insect allergy.
What are the most common food allergies?
Known as the “big eight,” the most common food allergens are eggs, fish, milk, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, soy, and wheat.
What is the difference between rhinitis and sinusitis?
It’s easy to confuse rhinitis and sinusitis, because signs of sinusitis can mimic colds or allergies, and people with rhinitis or asthma are more likely to suffer from chronic sinusitis.
Allergic rhinitis is an inflammation in the nose caused by allergens. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy or watery eyes.
Sinusitis (also known as rhinosinusitis, or a sinus infection) is an inflammation of the sinuses, located in the forehead, cheekbones, and behind the nose. Symptoms of sinusitis include thick, yellowy mucus, tenderness and swelling around the sinuses, and reduced ability to smell or taste.
What are the most common conditions treated by allergists?
Asthma, atopic eczema (dermatitis), drug allergy, food allergy and food intolerance, rhinitis, and skin allergy are the most common conditions that allergists treat. The majority of allergic disease occurs in childhood. Often, two conditions coexist. Allergies, including asthma, are among the most common chronic conditions worldwide. The most common allergic triggers are pollen, dust, grass, food, insect stings, animal dander, mold, medications, and latex.
An allergist, also called an immunologist, is trained to address allergic and immune system diseases such as dermatitis, food allergies, hay fever, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.