What is an allergy?
Allergies are a physical reaction to foreign substances. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system produces antibodies in response to a particular allergen — such as pollen, pet dander or food — that often affects your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system.
Symptoms and conditions
Allergy symptoms can range from uncomfortable to extremely serious. Our expert team is experienced in treating many common and rare symptoms and conditions including:
- Asthma (adult and pediatric)
- Allergic rhinitis
- Bee sting and insect bite allergies
- Food and drug allergies
- Hives (red, itchy skin)
- Immunodeficiency disorders
- Medication allergies
- Pet (and other animal) allergies
- Pink eye
- Runny nose
- Semen allergy
- Sinusitis (sinus infection)
- Skin rashes, itchy eyes and other allergy-related symptoms
Testing for allergies
If you are experiencing allergy-like symptoms, our facilities provide a range of diagnostic testing to find the exact cause including:
- Allergy skin and patch testing
- Asthma testing and pulmonary function testing
- Environmental allergy testing
- Food allergy testing
- Immunologic evaluation
- ImmunoCAP/Radioallergosorbent testing (RAST)
- Nose and nasal cavity exams (rhinoscopy)
- Penicillin testing
- Venom testing
While most allergies can’t be cured, treatments can help relieve your symptoms. This is why it’s important to have an ongoing treatment plan.
Our Optum physicians build lasting relationships to understand your unique sensitivities and preferences, and offer the most advanced treatments to treat you and your family’s allergies. We’ll also work closely with your primary care physician, and specialists such as your dermatologist or ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician to coordinate your care.
Depending on the cause and severity of your allergies, there are several ways to treat them.
Education on environmental changes
The most hands-off treatment for allergies is learning what causes them and trying to avoid them. This approach is used mainly for allergies caused by food, drugs, venom, latex and animal dander. While it may appear simple, avoiding allergens may be difficult to achieve, costly and may not be completely successful.
Medications can be taken to manage mild or chronic symptoms, or in the case of emergency for acute symptoms. Some common medications include:
- Over-the-counter medications
- antihistamine creams and steroid creams for eczema
- antihistamine pills for nasal symptoms that include rhinitis
- Acute and emergency medications
- inhalers for asthma
- skin creams for eczema
- auto injectors for anaphylaxis
By exposing patients to a small amount of an allergen over time, it is possible to lessen their allergy symptoms, and in some cases completely desensitize them. The allergen can be administered by your physician (or self-administered) in two ways:
- Subcutaneous injection: beneath the skin
- Sublingual: under the tongue
These procedures are typically used to treat allergies caused by pollen rhinitis, venom, asthma and cat allergy.
Medical care and help
Nobody should deal with the discomfort and stress of allergies alone. Our specialists are ready to help you diagnose and treat your symptoms so you can live a healthier life.
To find an allergy and immunology specialist near you, visit our Providers page.
Contact us with any questions.