More than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. An allergy is when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen. It can be something you eat, inhale into your lungs, inject into your body or touch. The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening emergency. While most allergies can’t be cured completely, several treatments can help relieve your allergy symptoms.
Testing For Allergies
You may be allergic to more things than you know. The best way to identify all of your allergies is through an allergy test. The 2 main types of allergy tests are skin tests and blood tests. A skin test is the most common and achieves faster results. These tests use extracts (a concentrated liquid form) of common allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites, animal dander, and foods. Once those get in your skin, they could trigger a rash. Your skin will get irritated and may itch, like a mosquito bite. Based on what extracts cause a rash, your doctor can tell you exactly what you’re allergic to.
The allergy experts at NY Allergy & Asthma can perform skin testing and plan a course of treatment accordingly. Most cases of allergies are resolved by simply avoiding the allergen as much as possible or through medications like antihistamines or nasal sprays. In some cases, immunotherapy can be prescribed to reduce reactions.
Allergy shots are a form of treatment called immunotherapy. If you receive injections at regular intervals over a period of approximately three to five years, your allergy attacks can be reduced or even stopped completely. Each allergy shot contains a tiny amount of the specific substance or substances that trigger your allergic reactions.
Over time, the dose of allergens in each of your allergy shots will increase, helping your body get used to the allergens. Through desensitization, your immune system builds up a tolerance to the allergen(s), diminishing your symptoms over time. Allergy shots are not currently recommended for food allergies but may be a good choice for you if:
- It is hard to avoid things that cause your allergic reactions (such as pets) and medications don’t control your symptoms well.
- You take other medications that, when mixed with allergy medications, cause side effects.
- You want to reduce your long-term use of allergy medication.
- You are allergic to insect stings.
Another form of immunotherapy treatment for allergies is called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). The term “sublingual” alludes to how the allergen extract, in the form of a liquid drop, is placed under the tongue. Similarly to allergy shots, SLIT treats the cause of allergies by delivering small doses of a specific allergen, increasing immunity over time. It is a great alternative to allergy shots if you don’t want injections or if you want immunotherapy for food allergies.
What Are The Advantages of SLIT?
- Safe for people of all ages
- Less expensive than allergy shots
- Good for people who don’t do well with needles
- Few clinic visits needed as it can be taken at home
- Significantly reduces allergy symptoms
- Can treat a broad range of allergies
It is recommended that patients use SLIT drops for three to five years to build long-lasting immunity.
Which Treatment Is Right For Your Allergies?
Whether or not you already know the cause of your allergies, the first step is allergy testing. Request an appointment at NY Allergy & Asthma online or by calling (212) 517-3300 for a simple in-office allergy test. Our physicians will evaluate your allergies to see what course of treatment is right for you.