If you suffer sneezing, sniffling, or nasal congestion due to allergies, you’re not alone. An estimated 7-8% of all children and adults have hay fever, often severe enough to make them take time off from school and work, and 10-20% have pet allergies. Laura Ispas, MD, at Allergy Asthma & Immunology Institute, is an expert at identifying allergens and providing treatment to relieve your symptoms. To schedule an appointment, call the office in Leesburg, VA and serving the greater Lansdowne, VA and Ashburn, VA areas, or book an appointment online.
What causes seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, occur when your immune system overreacts to airborne substances, labeling them as a danger to your body even though they’re harmless.
When you encounter the substance, or allergen, your immune system releases a variety of chemicals, including histamines, which cause allergy symptoms.
There are two types of allergic rhinitis:
Seasonal allergies (hay fever)
Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen that’s released from ragweed in the fall and from trees and grasses in spring and summer.
If your symptoms last throughout the year, your allergies may be triggered by mold spores, dust mites, or pet dander.
What causes a pet allergy?
When you have a pet allergy, you’re reacting to a protein found in your pet’s dead skin cells (dander), saliva, or urine — not pet fur. As microscopic pieces of these proteins travel through the air, they’re inhaled, and trigger an immune response.
Cats and dogs are well-known for causing allergies, but you can be allergic to a variety of animals, including horses. You may be more likely to develop a horse allergy if you’re also allergic to cats or dogs.
In some cases, symptoms that seem to be a pet allergy may be caused by pollen and mold spores that collect in your pet’s fur. After Dr. Ispas runs tests to determine your allergen, she can recommend treatment, such as allergy shots, so you can keep your pet.
What symptoms will I develop from allergies?
Hay fever, perennial allergies, and pet allergies cause symptoms such as:
- Runny nose
- Congested nose
- Itchy eyes, nose, or skin
- Postnasal drip
- Allergic shiners (blue-colored skin under your eyes)
Children with hay fever are more likely to develop sinus or middle ear infections. Airborne allergies are also closely associated with asthma and may cause migraine headaches.
How are allergies diagnosed?
Dr. Ispas determines your specific allergens with environmental skin testing, which introduces a small dose of allergens into your skin using a skin prick test or intradermal injection.
If you’re allergic to any of the substances, within 15 minutes, you’ll develop a red, itchy bump at the spot where it was injected.
How are allergies treated?
Although symptoms can be relieved with nose sprays and eye drops, the only way to treat your allergy is with allergy shots.
Allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, desensitize your immune system so that it stops triggering allergic reactions.
Your immunotherapy starts with a build-up phase. During this time, you’ll receive one to three shots weekly, with each shot containing a slightly larger dose of your allergen. This phase lasts about three to six months until Dr. Ispas determines you’ve reached an effective dose.
After your optimal dose is achieved, you’ll continue with a maintenance phase, which means getting allergy shots every two to four weeks. Maintenance treatment typically continues for three to five years.
What are rapid and cluster immunotherapy?
Dr. Ispas offers rapid immunotherapy, or rush immunotherapy, which accelerates the build-up phase. You receive all of your build-up shots in one to three days so that you quickly reach a maintenance dose and get relief sooner.
With cluster immunotherapy, you’ll receive several shots on one day on a schedule that achieves your maintenance dose in about four to eight weeks.
If you suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms, book an appointment online, or call Allergy Asthma & Immunology Institute for a same-day appointment when your symptoms are severe.