Allergies are the body’s way of fighting off a perceived threat. The immune system, comprised of cells, proteins, tissues and organs, protects the body from infection by warding off germs and bacteria. Occasionally, it will mistakenly identify an otherwise harmless substance as a menace and respond by attacking it.
How The Immune System Responds to a Threat
When a foreign substance invades the body, the immune system produces antibodies. These proteins trigger the release of histamines, which in turn produce symptoms associated with allergies – swelling, inflammation, itchiness and excess mucus.
Approximately 1 in 5 Americans are affected by allergies. Some of the more common allergens include pollen from plants, trees and grasses; mold; dust mites; and pet dander.
Understanding and Allergy Treatments
Allergies may be seasonal, or cause trouble year-round. Hay fever, the result of pollen in the air, is a very common seasonal allergy that causes individuals to experience cold-like symptoms that include stuffy and runny nose; sneezing; postnasal drip; itchiness in the nose, throat, and eyes; watery eyes; and pressure in the ears.
The best method of dealing with allergies is prevention, but this is understandably not always possible. Medical treatments that reduce the severity of symptoms include antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids. These bring short-term relief but are not a “cure” for allergies. Many patients benefit from immunotherapy, a long-term approach to treatment that works by introducing small doses of allergen over time, helping the body build up a tolerance. Immunotherapy is most often delivered via injection (allergy shots), but can also be administered orally (sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT) through droplets placed under the tongue.
Call ENT Associates of East Texas at (903) 592-5601 for more information or to schedule an appointment.