When a person who is allergic to a harmless substance such as dust, mold or pollen encounters that substance, the immune system may overreact. These can cause wheezing, itching, runny nose, watery or itchy eyes and other symptoms.

Our Capabilities

Our physicians are nationally and internationally recognized experts in allergy care. They are the region’s only otolaryngologists actively researching and presenting lectures around the world on allergies. UC Health Allergy & Sinus offers surgical treatments for patients whose allergies are unmanageable with medication, including septoplasty, inferior turbinate reduction and surgery on the nerves that stimulate mucus production and sneezing.

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Our Allergy & Sinus experts are global leaders in diagnosing and treating conditions of the nose and sinuses. From pioneering new procedures to helping write national treatment guidelines, our physicians are known around the world for their innovation and research in this subspecialty.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Allergy & Sinus team at 513-475-8400.

UC Health’s Ear, Nose and Throat program ranks among the best in the U.S. Our multidisciplinary team is made of surgeons, otolaryngologists, neurotologists and laryngologists — all working together to deliver world-class care with deep compassion to every patient.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Ear, Nose & Throat team at 513-475-8400.

About This Condition

Understanding Allergies

Allergic disease is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the world. People with a family history of allergies have an increased risk of developing allergic disease. Allergy symptoms can range from mild to a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Types of allergies include:

  • Hay fever.

  • Eczema.

  • Hives.

  • Asthma.

  • Food.

  • Medication.

  • Insect sting.

  • Latex.

Allergic reactions begin in your immune system and may produce antibodies that attack the allergen.

How does a person become allergic?

Allergens can be inhaled, ingested, or enter through the skin. Common allergic reactions, such as hay fever, certain types of asthma, and hives are linked to an antibody produced by the body called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Each IgE antibody can be very specific, reacting against certain pollens and other allergens. In other words, a person can be allergic to one type of pollen, but not another. When a susceptible person is exposed to an allergen, the body starts producing a large quantity of similar IgE antibodies. The next exposure to the same allergen may result in an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction will vary depending on the type and amount of allergen encountered and how the body's immune system reacts to that allergen.

Allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Generally, allergies are more common in children. But a first-time occurrence can happen at any age. Or it can come back after many years of remission.  Hormones, stress, smoke, perfume, or environmental irritants may also play a role in the development or severity of allergies.

What is anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylactic shock, also called anaphylaxis, is a severe, life-threatening reaction to certain allergens. Body tissues may swell, including tissues in the throat. There is also a sudden drop in blood pressure. The following are the most common symptoms of anaphylactic shock. But each person may experience symptoms differently. Other symptoms may include:

  • Itching and hives over most of the body.

  • Feeling warm.

  • Swelling of the throat and tongue or tightness in throat.

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath.

  • Dizziness.

  • Headache.

  • Pain or cramps.

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

  • Shock.

  • Loss of consciousness.

  • Feeling light-headed.

  • Anxiety.

  • Abnormal heart rate (too fast or too slow).

Anaphylactic shock can be caused by an allergic reaction to a medicine, food, serum, insect venom, allergen extract, or chemical. Some people who are aware of their allergic reactions or allergies carry an emergency anaphylaxis kit that contains injectable epinephrine. This is a medicine that stimulates the adrenal glands and increases the rate and force of the heartbeat.

Diagnostic Tests for Allergies

These tests will help you and your healthcare provider or allergist know what substances cause your allergy symptoms. Diagnostic tests for allergies may include: 

  • Skin tests. These are the most common allergy tests. Skin tests measure if you have IgE antibodies to certain allergens such as foods, pollens, or animal dander. A small amount of allergen is put on the skin. The area is then pricked or scratched. If you are allergic to the allergen, a small raised bump like a mosquito bite appears after about 15 minutes. Testing for many allergens may be done at the same time. An allergist may also do an intradermal test. In this test, you are given a shot (injection) of a small amount of allergen just under the skin. This type of skin testing is more sensitive than prick or scratch testing. Skin test results are available right after the testing is done.

  • Blood tests. Blood tests for allergies measure IgE antibodies to certain allergens in the blood. In the past, this testing was often referred to as RAST (radioallergosorbent test). More recently a newer blood test called an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) is used. Blood tests may be used when skin tests can't be done. For example, if you have certain skin conditions or a very recent severe allergic reaction.

  • Challenge test. This test is always supervised by an allergist. You eat or breathe in (inhale) a very small amount of an allergen. Then you are closely watched for an allergic reaction. Challenge testing is often done to test for food or medicine allergies when an allergist thinks you have a low risk for reaction.

See your healthcare provider for any positive test result. Your provider will be able to talk with you about the tests and knows your health history.

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