Allergies: Why you should care….

 …what you can do

Edward Gindi isBoard Certified in Pediatrics, Immunology and allergy detection in adults and children. The director of Laser Light MD, he is experienced in laser hair removal and skin rejuvenation for men and women.

What are allergies?

Think of allergies as a “super charged” immune system. Normally, when the body is challenged by foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria, it produces antibodies (IgG) to fight them off. In allergic individuals, the body senses something, such as food or airborne allergies, as “foreign,” though they are not really dangerous, and produces antibodies (IgE) against that substance. These IgE antibodies cause histamine to be released, along with concomitant allergic symptoms such as itchy rashes, watery eyes, stuffy, runny rose, clogged ears, post-nasal drip, cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

What is the risk of NOT treating allergies?

Untreated allergies can lead to repeated infections. Your nose is designed to be open – not stuffed – allowing the ears and sinuses to drain.  A stuffy nose will cause ear and sinus infections. Many of the kids with chronic sinus and chronic ear infections started out with untreated allergies. Post-nasal drip can lead to chronic sore throat and bad breath, asthma and pneumonia. Studies have shown that kids with nasal allergies (rhinitis) can’t learn, can’t focus and get lower test scores than those without allergies.

How can we treat allergies?  

The number one treatment for allergies is avoidance (simply avoid what you’re allergic to). This will stop boosting the immune response in the body. For kids, avoiding the allergen gives them a good chance of growing out of the food allergy entirely. Unfortunately this doesn’t work well with peanuts. Only 20% will outgrow it and 80% will have a lifetime peanut allergy. We now have blood tests available that predict which group you will fall into.

The second way to treat allergies is by using medications. Non-drowsy antihistamines such as Allegra, Zyrtec, or Claritin are often helpful in the treatment of allergies when used on a daily basis. Caution should be used with over-the-counter nasal sprays, especially Afrin and Dristan which are highly addictive; they cause rebound effects, making the symptoms even worse. In contrast, prescription nasal sprays are not addictive and work well when used on a daily basis.  Finally, for allergies that make a frequent appearance, allergy shots are most effective in actually curing them.

What happens if we don’t avoid the allergens?

As far as pollen and other airborne allergens, one ought to avoid unnecessary exposure when the pollen count is high. Keep the windows closed, especially early in the morning to prevent pollen from entering the house. A dust mite allergy that is not treated can result in a higher probability of developing asthma, namely, lower airway allergies. Because of this high risk, once coughing occurs with respiratory allergies, an allergist should be consulted.

Why do people develop allergies?

The #1 cause is hereditary in nature. If one parent has a history of allergies there is a 30% chance of each child developing allergies. If both parents have a history of allergies, the risk rises to 75%. New research also connects many prenatal factors to allergies in early childhood; notably the mother’s “gut micro biome.” Mothers who have healthy bacteria in their gut have a moderately lower risk of seeing allergies in their offspring. This healthy state can be achieved by consuming lots of fruits and vegetables and taking an excellent probiotic.

New research from Israel also connects the delayed introduction of certain foods, such as peanuts and eggs, to allergy causation. Many people don’t give these foods to their children until two years of age, but studies have confirmed the safety and efficacy of introducing them as soon as four to six months of age in certain patients, especially those already allergic to other foods such as milk, soy etc. Doing so is actually effective in preventing peanut and egg allergies. However, an allergist must be consulted first, since testing should be performed before starting these foods.

What is the difference between food allergies and food sensitivity?

Eating a food you are intolerant to can leave you feeling miserable. However, if you have a true food allergy, your body’s reaction to this food could be life-threatening. The reason honey should not be given to children under one year old is because pure honey has botulism spores which can cause paralysis. Older children and adults can break down the spores in the stomach, but small babies can’t. It should also be noted that lactose intolerance, which causes gas, loose bowels and the runs, is not an allergy. An easy way to deal with lactose intolerance is to have lactose-free milk. Or, take one lact-aid™ pill in the morning and you’ll feel well the whole day.