How Allergies Affect Our Lives
You may know a child who struggles with an allergy. It could be your own. You’ve seen the symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Trouble breathing
- Reaction to a particular food
Fifty-million Americans have allergies and 22 percent of the population is affected throughout the rest of the world. While many patients have allergy symptoms, only a small number are tested to see what causes them. And yet, the potential for allergies to progress to asthma has been well documented.
In just 14 years, cases of asthma have increased 160 percent in U.S. children aged 0 to 4 years1. Children are particularly at risk since those who experience inflammation of the inner ear (otitis media) or various forms of eczema (atopic dermatitis) may eventually be diagnosed with allergies that could lead to asthma.
Often, allergies are inherited; the chances of a child having allergies increases when one or both parents have allergies. Children suspected of allergies should be assessed with a physical exam, clinical history, and various tests. The testing could include a specific IgE (a specific antibody) test to determine the cause of the allergy. It is recommended that children under the age of two be tested for specific antibodies to common food allergens initially, and then tested for inhalant allergies when they get older.
Also, as an adult, you may be one of the millions who suffer from allergies. Among the most common types are pollen, dust mites, pets, mold, and food—all of which you can have reactions to for the first time as an adult, often causing fatigue, sleep disturbances, and mental fogginess. Accurate diagnosis is critical to improve your health.
Allergy Testing from Siemens*
The 3gAllergy™ assay is a third-generation allergen-specific IgE test that aids physicians in diagnosis and early treatment for allergies. The test delivers fast, reliable results to help physicians identify, monitor, and manage patients with allergic diseases. It is a simpler alternative to the traditional skin prick test and poses no risk of a severe reaction. Ask your doctor for a simple 3gAllergy blood test.
The Progression of Allergies to More Serious Illnesses
The allergy march2 is a series of allergic diseases that follow a fairly defined path as the allergic patient ages.
- Eczema typically occurs between birth and 3 months of age
- Gastrointestinal issues related to food allergens are typically seen in the second year
- Allergic rhinitis and other upper respiratory conditions due to inhalant allergens generally occur between the ages of 3 and 7
- Recurrent otitis media or middle ear infections occur between ages 3 and 7
- Asthma is usually diagnosed between the ages of 7 and 15.
Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of allergies is vital to interrupt the progression of the disease and halt the allergy march.
2: Sasai K, et al. J Periatr. 1996;128:834-40
Frequently Asked Questions
A simple overview of allergy
What is an allergy?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction to a normally harmless substance (allergen).
Depending on the allergy, reactions occur seasonally or throughout the year. If you are allergic, you produce too much IgE antibody in response to a foreign substance (allergen). When IgE antibodies react with an allergen (substance to which you are allergic), your body releases chemicals that cause specific allergic symptoms.
What types of allergens are there?
There are many things (allergens) that can trigger an allergic reaction. These can be foods, animals, dust, insects, trees, weeds, pollen, mold, and medications.
There are two major classes of allergens:
Environmental allergens that may occur from contact or are more commonly inhaled such as seasonal allergens like pollens and dust.
Food-related allergens that you may come in contact with, inhale, or indeed ingest that may elicit an allergy response.
What are the typical allergy symptoms?
Allergy symptoms are very wide-ranging. For example, symptoms can be skin irritation, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue, itchy bumps (hives), cough, headache, nausea, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), or life-threatening anaphylactic shock. The allergic response may affect one part or many parts of the body.
Severe allergy symptoms are characterized by their rapid onset. They may start with a mild-like itching of the eyes and progress within minutes to more serious symptoms like dizziness or breathing or swallowing difficulties. In these cases, you should seek medical help as soon as possible.
Mild allergic symptoms may not be so easily recognized. Mild symptoms can manifest as chronic symptoms or irritations such as mild swelling of mucous membranes, rash, runny eyes, or nose and sneezing.
Managing these milder chronic symptoms may be equally impactful on you or your child’s well-being and lifestyle.
Allergy symptoms may also progress during your life or your children's lives. For example, untreated allergies in children have been reported to progress to asthma in adulthood.
Common forms of allergic manifestations in infants and young children:
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Atopic dermatitis
- Recurrent wheezing
In older children:
- Allergic rhinitis (sometimes called hay fever)
- Bronchial asthma
- Conjunctivitis also known as pink eye
- Otitis media (middle ear infection)
Who gets allergies?
Anyone! Allergies are not limited to specific age groups, geographic locations, or gender. The tendency to have allergies is inherited. But you do not have to be born with an allergy to be allergic. You can suddenly become allergic to something that has never before been a problem. Overall, one in six people are reported to have an allergy.
If you or your child has allergy-type symptoms and you wish to control them, it’s important to seek medical help and have the causes of your allergy symptoms diagnosed.
When should children be tested for allergies?
Children presenting with severe, persistent, or recurrent allergic symptoms or requiring long-term treatment should be tested for allergy, whatever their age. A family history of allergy (one or both parents) should be considered a high-risk factor.
Host A, Andrae S, Charkin S, Diaz-Vazquez C, Dreborg S, Eigenmann PA, et al. Allergy testing in children: why, who, when, and how? Allergy 2003;58:559-69.
How do you know if you have an allergy?
There are allergy tests available that together with a detailed clinical history and a physical exam help give you and your doctor the answer.
Traditionally, skin prick tests may be recommended to help diagnose your allergies. Skin prick tests actually induce an allergic reaction by injecting the allergens under the skin. These induced allergic reactions may be long lasting and very uncomfortable for you or your child and also risk inducing severe allergic reactions.
The alternative to skin prick testing is Siemens 3gAllergy, which allows a full range of allergy tests on a small sample of blood.
Ask your doctor for Siemens 3gAllergy.
Advantages of a simple blood test.
- Convenience and comfort over other options
- No long-lasting irritating skin reactions
- No risk of severe allergic reactions
- No need to discontinue allergy medications prior to testing
- Minimal number of office visits required for diagnosis
If your symptoms are due to allergies, the 3gAllergy blood test, plus a detailed history, helps your doctor to decide:
- which allergens may be causing your symptoms;
- what treatment steps are most appropriate.
How are allergies treated?
Your doctor will develop a specific treatment program using 3gAllergy test results, your medical history, physical exam findings, and any other tests that prove useful.
Eliminate the causes of allergies in your personal environment.
Sometimes the best cure for an allergy is simply to remove the cause. Depending on your allergy, you may need to:
- control house dust with filters;
- avoid allergy-causing foods;
- limit outdoor activities during heavy pollen periods;
- minimize exposure to certain animals.
Use prescribed medication. Effective prescription drugs can reduce your allergy symptoms with few side effects. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication.
Receive immunotherapy. Immunotherapy can reduce sensitivity to pollens, dust, mold spores, and animal dander. This treatment enables a patient to build tolerance to a variety of allergens through regular allergen injections by a physician.
What do you ask doctors about blood tests? How do you start the conversation?
Step 1 - If you or your child has a suspected allergy, inform your doctor about your suspicions and provide a detailed history of when and where allergy symptoms started and were observed. Be as specific as you can about timing and events.
Step 2 – Once a detailed clinical history is taken by your doctor, he or she will have to diagnose what is causing the allergy. Your doctor may offer options for either skin prick testing and/or blood testing.
Step 3 – If you are offered skin prick testing only and you do not want you or your child to experience the discomfort and inconvenience of the skin prick test, ask your doctor about using a simple Siemens 3gAllergy blood test instead. If you are given a choice, ask your doctor about the Siemens 3gAllergy blood test.
*Host A, Andrae S, Charkin S, Diaz-Vazquez C, Dreborg S, Eigenmann PA, et al. Allergy testing in children: why, who,when and how? Allergy 2003;58:559-69.