By Christine DeMason, MD While patients with a cold and allergies generally have the same symptoms (runny nose, nasal drainage, congestion and cough), they are different diseases. Cold A cold is caused by a virus that affects the upper respiratory…
Allergy is a hypersensitive reaction to common things in our surroundings. Allergies, often inherited, are the immune system reacting to something- eaten, touched, or inhaled that doesn’t affect most other people. If you have an allergy, your immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as an infection causing invader. This substance is called an allergen. The immune system overreacts to the allergen by producing Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. This reaction leads to symptoms that often adversely affect the patient’s work, play, sleep, and overall quality of life. Common allergens that trigger allergies in people are plant pollens, dust, animal dander and molds.
How Common Are Allergies?
Allergies are among the nation’s most common and costly health problems. They affect as many as one in four people- adults and children. Allergy is one of the most rapidly increasing health problem in children. More than 50 million Americans have allergic rhinitis. The yearly sales of allergy targeted medication now exceed $5 billion. The billions of dollars of lost productivity, work and leisure time and decreased quality of life are some of the society impact of allergy.
What are the Symptoms of Ear, Nose And Throat Allergies?
People often think of allergy as only “hay fever,” with sneezing, runny nose, nasal stuffiness and itchy, watery eyes. However, allergies can also cause symptoms such as chronic “sinus” problems, excess nasal and throat drainage (postnasal drip), head congestion, frequent colds, hoarse voice, eczema (skin allergies), recurring ear infections, hearing loss, dizziness, chronic cough and asthma. Even stomach and intestinal problems as well as excessive fatigue can be symptoms of allergy.
Symptoms of ear, nose, and throat allergies may include:
- Repeated sneezing
- Nasal itching and rubbing
- Nasal congestion-Runny nose
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Crease across bridge of nose
- Frequent throat clearing
- Mouth breathing-Diminished/lost sense of smell/taste
- Recurrent, unexplained nosebleeds-Recurrent ear infections
- Recurrent sinus infections
- Fluctuating hearing loss
- Cold-like symptoms more than 10 days
- Symptoms recur same time each year
- Chronic fatigue
Symptoms can range from minor to severe. The greater the frequency and/or amount of exposure, the greater the chance that the susceptible person will develop an allergic problem that will require treatment.
What causes Symptoms to Begin? There is no “usual” way for an allergy to begin; the onset may be sudden or gradual. Often, symptoms develop following an unusual stress to the immune symptom, such as a severe viral infection.
Can an Allergy be Outgrown? No, but it is common for people to change the way their allergic symptoms affect them. For example, a baby may develop colic, recurrent ear infections, or have eczema, but as it grows older, it may develop different allergic symptoms such as hay fever, fluid behind the eardrum, or asthma.
How do we make the Diagnosis? The initial diagnosis of allergy is based on the history and physical examination. To be certain of the diagnosis and proceed to treat the patient effectively, the findings are confirmed by tests that identify the specific allergens.
Who can treat ENT allergies? Because allergies can produce such a wide range of symptoms, there are several doctors, both specialists and primary care physicians, that treat the allergic patient.