Allergy Handout


Allergies can lead to a variety of symptoms that range from mild to severe. Sneezing, itching nose and nasal congestion are due to an allergic reaction of the nose and sinus passages referred to as allergic rhinitis. Red, itching, and tearing eyes are due to an allergic reaction by the conjunctivae called allergic conjunctivitis (eye allergies).

Allergies are triggered by a variety “allergens” including:

Your allergist can perform a variety of allergy tests to determine what substances trigger your allergies. Most people will test positive for multiple allergens.

Allergy medications are available to provide short-term relief of allergy symptoms, including antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, and leukotriene inhibitors. Long-term relief may be provided by immunotherapy (allergy shots). Your allergist will recommend an allergy treatment plan based on the severity and duration of your symptoms, the type of allergens causing the allergic reaction, and other factors.

Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)

Allergy shots, also referred to as “immunotherapy”, provide a safe and effective treatment for people who suffer from allergies. Small amounts of these allergens are injected in gradually increasing amounts over a long period of time. This changes the way your body responds to allergens and reduces the need for allergy medications. Your allergist may recommend immunotherapy if you experience moderate to severe allergy symptoms that require prolonged use of allergy medications.


Anaphylaxis, also called “anaphylactic shock”, is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms develop rapidly and often include difficulty breathing. It is important to call 911 immediately. Speak to your allergist about the risks of anaphylaxis and whether you might be a candidate for self-injectable epinephrine (Epipen, Twinject).


Asthma is a chronic lung disorder that results in recurrent episodes of wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. There are different types of asthma, including exercise-induced asthma and occupational asthma. A variety of asthma medications can help to manage asthma symptoms, including inhaled bronchodilators (albuterol, levalbuterol), inhaled corticosteroids, and combination asthma inhalers.

Your allergist will recommended an asthma treatment based on your type of asthma, severity of asthma symptoms, and asthma history. An asthma diary may be useful for tracking your asthma symptoms and response to treatment. Talk to your allergist about a personalized asthma action plan.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, also called “eczema”, is a common skin disorder that causes dry, itching, and inflamed skin. The rash of atopic dermatitis comes and goes in cycles. A variety of triggers, such as allergies or infections, may lead to a “flare”, or worsening of the rash.

During a flare, treatment options include topical corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors (Protopic), antihistamines, and antibiotics. Your allergist will recommend a treatment based on the location of the dermatitis, severity of symptoms, the presence of possible skin infection, and your response to past treatments. Atopic dermatitis can often be kept under control with appropriate skin care, including the regular use of moisturizers.

Hives (Urticaria)

Hives describes an allergic reaction on the skin resulting in raised, red areas with intense itching or stinging. Hives are categorized as “acute” if they last less than 6 weeks and “chronic” if they last longer. Acute hives are usually due to an allergic reaction or viral infection. Chronic hives are often due to other causes, including heat, cold, exercise, and stress. Treatment options include antihistamines and oral corticosteroids (prednisone).