Understanding Allergies

As you may recall, two months ago I discussed eczema and last month I moved on to discuss asthma. This month I will finish the discussion of the “allergic triad” by talking about allergies. This is certainly the most common problem that people have out of the three. About 20% of the population, or 50 million people in the U.S., suffer from allergies.

Allergies can present in a number of different ways. Some allergies present as red, dry, or watery eyes. Some people with allergies have a clear, runny nose, while others have bad breath or continually clear their throat. Some allergies such as to food or an insect sting can be more serious.

People can be allergic to different things. Some allergens such as dust mites or perfumes are present year-round, whereas other allergens such as oak tree pollen or ragweed are more present during spring time. Allergies can present at any stage in life, but is much more common in children younger than 18 years old.

Everybody has an immune system which is the body’s defense mechanism against illness and outside exposures. IgE is one of the immunoglobulins in the body, and this IgE is active mostly in response to an allergen. So all those pesky symptoms of allergies and due to your body reacting to something it perceives as a danger to your body for whatever reason. Allergies can also be hardly noticeable when you are healthy, but bothersome to the point that you need medicine when your immune system is compromised due to a virus or even changes like pregnancy or puberty.

Most allergic symptoms can be treated with avoidance of the specific allergen and/or medications such as an antihistamine or nasal steroid. However there is a severe form of allergies called anaphylaxis which can be life-threatening, and requires a different medication in an emergency situation. Anaphylaxis is where an allergen causes a person to have hives in addition to throat swelling, wheezing, vomiting, and/or lip swelling. People with anaphylaxis need to carry EpiPens with them at all times and need to strictly avoid their allergen and have an allergist that guides them toward the right treatment.

Depending on the problems allergies can cause a person, some are diagnosed with the help of a doctor just by a simple history and phys-ical whereas some require blood work or more specific tests that an allergist can do to determine the diagnosis, severity, and cause.

That sums up the highlights over the last three months discussing allergies, asthma, and eszema. I hope it has been helpful, and if anything brings more questions to mind about your child, please contact your pediatrician!


Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.