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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Allergies

What is an allergy?
What are some common allergens?
What is a food-allergy?
What is the best treatment for food allergies?
What are the common symptoms of an allergy?
What are allergy shots?
What is allergy testing?
Who should consider allergy shots?
How can an allergist help me?

What is an allergy?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction to ordinarily harmless substances. These substances, called allergens, may be inhaled, swallowed or come into contact with the skin. When an allergen is absorbed into the body it triggers white blood cells to produce IgE antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to mast cells causing release of potent chemical mediators such as histamine, causing typical allergic symptoms.

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What are some common allergens?
Some common allergens are pollen, mold spores, dust mites, animal dander, feathers, foods, medications and insect stings.

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What is a food-allergy?
A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly believes that a harmless substance, in this case a food item, is harmful. In an attempt to protect the body, it creates IgE antibodies to that food. The next time the individual eats that food, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals and histamines in order to protect the body.

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What is the best treatment for food allergies?
Strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to avoid a reaction. Reading ingredient labels for all foods is the key to maintaining control over the allergy.

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What are the common symptoms of an allergy?
Allergy symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. Mild reactions include these symptoms, watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, and a constant runny nose. Moderate reactions include symptoms that spread to other parts of the body. These may include itchiness or difficulty breathing. A severe reaction (anaphylaxis) is a rare, life-threatening emergency in which the body's response to the allergen is sudden and affects the whole body. If you suspect you may be suffering from allergies, contact an allergist/immunologist for a professional diagnosis and treatment plan.

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What are allergy shots?
Allergy shots or allergen immunotherapy is a form of treatment aimed at decreasing your sensitivity to substances you may be allergic to called allergens. These allergens are identified by allergy testing, and are the substances that trigger your allergy symptoms when you are exposed to them. Allergen immunotherapy involves injecting increasing amounts of an allergen to a patient over several months. Immunotherapy has been shown to prevent the development of new allergies and, in children, it can prevent the progression of the allergic disease from allergic rhinitis to asthma. Allergen immunotherapy can lead to the long-lasting relief of allergy symptoms after treatment is stopped.

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What is allergy testing?
If you are allergic, you are reacting to a particular substance. Any substance that can trigger an allergic reaction is called an allergen. To determine which specific substances are triggering your allergies, your allergist/immunologist will safely and effectively test your skin, or sometimes your blood, using tiny amounts of commonly troublesome allergens.

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Who should consider allergy shots or allergy immunotherapy?
People with moderate to severe allergies should consider immunotherapy as well as those who have allergies throughout the year, those who do not respond to allergy medications, and those who are allergic to substances which are hard to avoid, like trees and grasses and pets. Immunotherapy is strongly recommended for people with severe allergies to insect stings. Immunotherapy is not recommended for food allergies because it has not been shown to be effective and because of the chance of a severe allergic reaction to the injection.

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How can an allergist help me?
An allergist is a pediatrician or an internal medicine doctor who has undergone an additional two to three years of training in allergic/immunologic disease. Allergic/immunologic disease includes things like hay fever, asthma, eczema, hives and diseases dealing with compromised immune systems. If you think you might have any of these, see your family doctor. If, after carrying out your doctor's suggestions, you aren't satisfied with your quality of life, consider seeing a specialist. Allergists can use work with you to do more advanced testing or provide different types of treatments and management techniques. Dr. Ellenburg and Dr. Frazier are both board certified pediatric allergists.

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Allergy & Asthma Affiliates / 2121 Highland Avenue / Knoxville, TN 37916 / (865) 525-2640