Call today for an appointment (925) 846-5100

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q - What is an allergy?

One of the marvels of the human body is that it can defend itself against harmful invaders like viruses or bacteria.  The bodies defense system is called the immune system.  In people with allergies, the immune system reacts to otherwise harmless substances like dust, mold or pollen.  When patients with allergic diseases are exposed to these substances, the immune system rallies its defenses, launching complex chemical weapons to attack and destroy the supposed enemy.  In the process, some unpleasant and, in extreme cases, life-threatening symptoms may be experienced. These are what we refer to as allergies, like rhinitis and asthma.

Q - What causes an allergic reaction?

Thousands of ordinary substances, proteins called allergens, can provoke an allergic reactions.  Some of the more common are pollen, mold spores, house dust, animal dander, industrial chemicals, foods, medicine and insect stings.

An allergic reaction can occur anywhere in the body, but usually happen in places where special immune cells are stationed to fight off invaders - around the eyes, in the lungs, and around the lining of the stomach, throat and nose.

Q - Who develops allergies?

Allergies affect people of all ages, genders and socioeconomic classes.  Allergies are most common in children, but people of all ages can develop allergies.  Although the method of inheritance is not known, children of parents with allergies are far more likely to develop allergic diseases such as rhinitis and asthma. 

Q - What is the best way to testing for allergies?

Allergy diagnostic tests, such as skin tests or blood tests, provide information that can confirm what your health history tells the doctor.  Skin tests, in most cases, are preferred to blood tests because, the results are available immediately,  they are less expensive and they are more sensitive to subtle allergies.

A blood test is appropriate in certain situations, particularly when you, cannot suspend antihistamine therapy which can inhibit skin tests, have widespread skin disease making skin testing difficult, are so sensitive to the allergen that the test might be risky or cannot be skin tested for some other reason.

Q - What are allergy shots all about?

Allergy shots are an effective, safe treatment for people who suffer from allergic diseases, like hay fever, asthma and insect stings.  Allergy shots, also called allergen immunotherapy, works by desensitizing a persons immune system to the allergy producing substance, improving the person’s natural resistance and decreasing the need for medications.

Q - Do allergy shots have side effects?

Like any medical treatment, allergy shots can have side effects.  Itching, swelling and irritation can develop at the injection sites.  More severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis have been known to occur, but such reactions are extremely rare when allergy shots are given under the supervision of an allergist.

Q - Why is it that frequent exposure to an allergen provoke symptoms, but regular allergy shots reduce symptoms?

Sudden exposure to irregular amounts allergen increase the production of antibodies, whereas systematic exposure to small amounts of the allergen relaxes the immune system and build tolerance.

Q - What is asthma?

In people with asthma, the muscles of the lungs over react to triggers.  This causes inflammation and constriction of the lining of the lungs, making it difficult for the person to breath. 

Q - What causes asthma?

The underlying cause of asthma is not know, though heredity does play a roll.  The children of a parent with asthma are far more likely to become asthmatic and the figure doubles when both parents are asthmatic. 

Q - Can asthma be cured?
Asthma cannot be cured, but with proper attention and the supervision of an allergist, asthma can be controlled.  With the proper combination of avoidance of allergens, treatment with appropriate medications and education, people with asthma can lead normal healthy lives. 

Q - Is asthma a psychological or emotional disease?

NO. Although asthma symptoms may be exacerbated by stress and emotional factors, asthma is NOT a psychological disease.  Reducing stress, eating right, sleeping regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle all contribute to overall well being and can help to reduce the severity of any chronic disease

Copyright © 2008-2010 Dr. Beth Cowan