Environmental allergies are immune reactions to naturally occurring airborne substances such as pollens, dust, animal dander, and mold spores. Because these triggers are found both outdoors and indoors they are difficult to avoid.
At Allergy Partners, we understand the struggles of living with environmental allergies. That's why our allergists will work with you to pinpoint what is triggering your symptoms and create a comprehensive treatment plan to not only relieve your symptoms but addresses the underlying cause.
Depending on the trigger and severity of your allergies, common symptoms of environmental allergies can include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Itchy nose or throat
- Watery or itchy eyes
- Coughing or wheezing
- Postnasal drip
- Swelling around the eyes
People with allergies are more prone to ear and sinus infection, and up to 40% of allergy sufferers also have asthma.
Allergies are often divided into seasonal (‘hay fever’) and year-round (or perennial). Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is typically triggered by pollens during different seasons of the year. Symptoms of sneezing and an itchy, runny, or blocked nose can range from mild to severe, depending on the person and their allergic triggers. Depending on where you live, different tree, grass and weed pollens can trigger symptoms at different times of the year. Perennial allergic rhinitis is typically triggered by indoor allergens, such as dust mites or pet dander, and cause year-round symptoms. Many people have a combination of both seasonal and year-round allergies, making an accurate diagnosis of allergic triggers even more important.
Environmental allergens occur inside and outside, meaning that the culprits are often hard to avoid. Here are some of the most common triggers:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Mold spores
- Tree pollen
- Grass pollen
- Weed pollen
- Mold spores
While outdoor allergies are commonly associated with seasonal allergies, it is possible to experience environmental allergies all year round.
A careful history, physical exam and detailed knowledge of the area’s native plants and pollination patterns are the first steps in the proper diagnosis of allergic rhinitis. This will help identify potential allergic triggers and direct testing. Allergy testing, often called skin testing, pinpoints the triggers of allergic rhinitis. In skin testing, a small amount of purified allergen extract is introduced into the skin. A positive test results in a small raised, itchy wheal (or hive) that usually goes away in 30 minutes. After determining the triggers, allergists can provide a range of solutions, from avoidance methods to specialized treatments aimed at alleviating your symptoms.
The treatment of environmental allergies includes 3 components: avoidance of triggers, taking medications to treat symptoms, and addressing the underlying cause with immunotherapy.
Four Steps to Relief
Planning Your First Visit
Schedule an appointment at your local office and fill out our pre-registration and medical history forms to help minimize any wait time when you arrive.
Your First Visit
Your initial visit will last between two and three hours and consist of an initial consultation, evaluation, and comprehensive exam. We’ll create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.
Diagnostics and Testing
We may complete one or more tests to better understand the cause of your symptoms. Common tests include skin testing, pulmonary testing, and blood testing.
Following the evaluation and testing, we’ll provide a comprehensive diagnosis and implement a personalized treatment plan that will deliver relief.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to entirely avoid environmental allergies. Luckily, there are various treatments and practical tips available that may help bring relief.
Take Steps to Reduce Dust Allergy Symptoms
Dust mites can be found in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and carpets. However, you can reduce your dust allergy symptoms significantly by:
- Putting special dust-proof covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs
- Removing and cleaning bedding frequently
- Vacuuming carpets and upholstered furniture often, using a high-quality vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) filter
Protect Yourself from Seasonal Allergies
Allergens from trees, grasses, and weeds can create a range of challenges for those with environmental or seasonal allergies. A few tips for avoiding seasonal allergy symptoms include:
- Keeping windows closed during pollen season, especially during the day
- Staying inside during midmorning and early evening hours when pollen counts are highest.
- Taking a shower, washing your hair, and changing your clothing after being outside for an extended period
Manage Levels of Pet Dander
Dander is the dead skin cells that animals regularly shed, which can be the source of some environmental allergies. If you are allergic to pet dander, consider the following:
- Short-haired pets can trigger allergic reactions just as much as long-haired animals
- Washing your hands after petting an animal could reduce the risk of an allergic reaction
- Bathing your pet could reduce the amount of dander shed
- Keeping your pet out of the bedroom and off the bed
Work Diligently to Prevent Mold
Mold spores can enter your home any time you open a door or window. Once inside, they can begin to grow just about anywhere that meets the right conditions of moisture, warmth, and darkness. To reduce the occurrence of mold, make sure to:
- Clean bathrooms, kitchens, and basements regularly, and keep them well-ventilated
- Check your home for moisture sources, and repair leaks or cracks in windows or doors immediately
- Consider using dehumidifiers in damp areas, such as basements
A variety of medications are useful in treating symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Antihistamines are useful for alleviating itching and sneezing, while decongestants alleviate congestion. Nasal sprays (both steroid and antihistamine) effectively treat many nasal symptoms while a variety of antihistamine eye drops are available for eye symptoms. Nasal saline rinses can also remove allergens and irritants from the nose and complement medication.
Immunotherapy is a very effective treatment for allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and asthma. Unlike medications that treat symptoms only, immunotherapy truly modifies the immune system and prevents symptoms from developing in the first place. Immunotherapy is effective in approximately 85% of patients and reduces symptoms, need for medications. In young children, immunotherapy can prevent the development of not only more allergies but also the risk of asthma.
The Allergy Partners Difference
At Allergy Partners, we utilize trusted clinical programs and procedures designed to bring you the most effective and long-term relief from environmental allergy symptoms. Our professional allergists will work with you to uncover what might be causing your allergies, guide you on how best to treat your symptoms, and customize therapy to address the underlying cause of your allergies symptoms.
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