Allergies are among the most common of all medical complaints, impacting more than 24 million people nationally, but also among the most difficult to pin down. Let’s look at how many allergies can be managed with over-the-counter medications, but in some cases may benefit from prescription drugs and other treatment from a house call doctor.
What are allergies?
In most cases, allergic reactions are the body’s mislabeling of a foreign substance, like pollen or mold, as harmful. The immune system then responds to this false alarm with a number of defensive symptoms, often including:
- Runny nose
- Facial discomfort or pressure
- Asthma-like symptoms
- Anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock
These symptoms range from a minor nuisance to life-threatening, with anaphylaxis being the most dangerous. Minor symptoms can usually be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications, but difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis obviously require immediate attention (see below).
It is not clear why the body misidentifies certain substances as threats and ignores others. Moreover, it is not understood why allergies vary from person to person as much as they do. However, there is very strong evidence that allergies are directly related to a patient’s genetic inheritance.
What are the most common forms of allergies?
- Hay fever or pollen/mold allergies
- Pets – more specifically, pet dander
- Medications – such as penicillin
- Physical allergies – can include cold, sunlight, vibration, and more
- Metals – particularly nickel and gold
- Pests – like cockroaches and dust mites
- Stinging insects – bees and wasps are especially concerning
- Food allergies – nuts and shellfish are common
Should I take allergy tests?
Over-the-counter allergy tests are often expensive and more often than not, lead to inaccurate results. If you are not getting help from over-the-counter medications or other, easily accessible treatments, it is recommended that you see or call a doctor for professional allergy tests.
How do you treat minor allergic reactions and asthma?
As mentioned before, over-the-counter allergy medications such as antihistamines are often adequate for treating minor allergic reactions, but prescription medications may be useful for those who frequently experience allergies. Alternatively, simply removing oneself from exposure to allergens and then washing may be enough to stop an immune response. However, this may only work with certain allergens, such as pollen.
Allergies can also cause asthma-like symptoms, including chest tightness, restricted breathing, wheezing, and/or coughing. Minor cases may benefit from the above-mentioned treatments; however, if symptoms are severe, persist or worsen, it is recommended that you visit a doctor. In a true emergency where breathing becomes difficult, always call 911 or go immediately to an emergency room.
What is anaphylaxis? How is it treated?
Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that is usually characterized by significant swelling (usually in more than one location on the body), anxiety, vomiting and diarrhea, pain, cramps, restrictive breathing (that worsens) and throat tightness, rash, dizziness, and feeling unusually warm. In particularly dangerous episodes, anaphylaxis can lead to a sharp drop in blood pressure, causing a loss of consciousness, shock, and/or death if not treated quickly.
Anaphylaxis always warrants immediate medical attention. An injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) can counteract anaphylaxis – but should be used in conjunction with an immediate emergency room visit. Important note: in the event that a patient is experiencing anaphylaxis and does not have access to appropriate medication, they should call 911 if they are not able to get immediately to an emergency room. Fortunately, the condition is much less common than allergies, but it still affects over 1.6 percent of us.
House Call Doctor for allergies
Fortunately, most cases of allergies are more in the nature of ongoing annoyances; harmful to our quality of life, but not immediately life-threatening. If you are suffering chronic or severe allergies, meeting with a house call doctor for 24 hour urgent care may be advantageous. Dr. Michael Farzam and House Call Doctor Los Angeles serve the Greater Los Angeles area and can assist with prescriptions and testing. For in-home medical care, contact the number above or view our contact page for more information.