An allergy is a chronic condition involving an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance called an allergen.
If you have an allergy, your immune system views the allergen as an invader and a chain reaction is initiated. White blood cells of the immune system produce IgE antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to special cells called mast cells, causing a release of potent chemicals such as histamine.
These chemicals may cause symptoms:
• Itching in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes
• Stuffy nose (congestion)
• Runny nose
• Tearing eyes
• Dark circles under the eyes *
Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
Stinging Insect Allergy
Prick tests involve applying suspected allergens to the surface of the skin (topically) and then pricking the skin to introduce the substances into the skin. These tests, which usually are performed on the forearm, upper arm, or upper back, allow several allergens to be tested at the same time. Allergic reactions (e.g., itching, redness, swelling) usually develop within 20 minutes. Intradermal tests, which involve injecting a small amount of allergen into the outer layer of skin, may be required to conclusively rule out allergic sensitivities; often used to diagnose hay fever, food allergies, drug allergies and latex allergy.
Patch tests can be used to diagnose contact dermatitis and delayed food allergy. In this test, the allergist/immunologist places a small amount of allergen on the skin (usually on the back), covers the area with a bandage, and checks for a reaction after 48-72 hours. Patients who are allergic to the substance develop a rash, or even blisters, on the skin.
While not done in our office, a physician may order a allergy blood test whichs involves taking a blood sample, adding an allergen to the sample, and measuring the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies produced in response to the allergen.
Allergy blood tests, which are less sensitive and more expensive than skin tests, are usually reserved for rare cases when allergy skin tests may not be accurate (e.g., when the patient has sensitive skin that reacts to a saline prick test or has a skin condition, such as hives or eczema, that prevents an adequate field for skin tests).
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, including all those at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis. This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in 13 children in the United States – or roughly two in every classroom. FARE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was formed in 2012 as the result of a merger between the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network and the Food Allergy Initiative.
FARE’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments
“Whether you are newly diagnosed or a long-time member of the allergy community, FAACT is your home for education, advocacy, and connections with other parents and adults affected by food allergies and life-threatening anaphylaxis. FAACT’s mission is to educate, advocate, and raise awareness for all individuals and families affected by food allergies and life-threatening anaphylaxis. FAACT is also your voice for food allergy awareness. Whether it’s keeping children safe at school, responding to food allergy bullying, dealing with workplace issues, or simply taking the family out for a bite to eat, this Web site has all the facts you need to manage food allergies and stay healthy”
Consortium of Food Allergy Research – www.cofargroup.org
The Consortium of Food Allergy Research (CoFAR) was established in July 2005 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to conduct both observational and clinical studies to answer questions related to food allergies.
The CoFAR patient education materials were developed through an educational supplemental grant from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The materials are intended to guide patients through the initial steps to understand and manage food allergies.
The Center for Disease Control offers a Toolkit for Managing Food Allergies in School. There is information for school administrators, teachers, school transportation staff as well as school nurses. All of the documents are PDFs for easy distribution.