We routinely perform allergy testing in our office. It is simple and painless. Several drops of possible allergic substances are placed on the skin, usually on the arms. After an elapsed time of approximately 20 minutes, the skin is checked. If there is an itchy spot near one of the drops, the patient is allergic to that substance.
Patients may experience itchy, red, and watery eyes. Nasal complaints include a stuffy, runny nose associated with sneezing. Patients also may complain of a scratchy throat, post-nasal drip, and cough. Allergies can also lead to more complicated conditions, including asthma, ear infections, and sinusitis.
The Mechanism of Allergies
Allergies are the result of your body’s immune system overreacting to harmless airborne substances that land in the nose, throat, and lungs. Common substances that can trigger allergies include dust, mold, pollen, and cat dander.
Allergies can be treated by 1 of 3 strategies: avoidance, medications, or immunotherapy.
In theory, avoidance is highly effective-- if you are never around the things that cause your allergies, you will not have symptoms. Unfortunately, avoidance is not usually practical or desirable. For example, you may enjoy being outdoors during the warm months, when your worst allergy triggers are in full bloom!
Allergy symptoms can be controlled with prescription and over-the-counter medications. These include a myriad of nasal sprays and oral formulations. However, many of these medicines have unwanted side effects. Moreover, these medicines only mask the symptoms of allergies and do not offer a cure.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (Allergy Drops)
Immunotherapy is the only treatment with the potential to permanently cure allergies. The therapy works by retraining your immune system to tolerate and ignore your allergy triggers. Small amounts of the allergens are slowly introduced to your immune system in a way that bypasses your nose and lungs. The 2 methods used for immunotherapy in the United States are allergy shots, and allergy drops. Shots are administered in your physician’s office weekly. You must be monitored for 30 minutes after the shot, in case of a severe reaction. Allergy drops are applied at home, under the tongue, once daily.
Both allergy shots and allergy drops are effective. Shots require you to visit your doctor’s office once a week. Each visit usually requires you to miss work or school, spend money on co-pays and gas, and adjust your schedule. After each injection, you must spend 30 minutes under observation, in case of a life-threatening reaction. Allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy) are taken in the comfort of your home. They are placed under the tongue for 2 minutes, and then swallowed. Drops are clinically proven to be safer than shots, they are painless and tasteless. Allergy drops are particularly desirable for pediatric patients.