Symptoms and causes

What is it?

An allergy is an unjustified reaction of our immune system to foreign substances entering through the skin (latex, insect poisons, cosmetics, etcetera), the respiratory system (pollen, house dust mites, animal dander, etcetera) or the digestive system (fish, crustaceans, milk, medicines, etcetera). Approximately 30% of the population suffer fromm allergies.

An allergy to inhaled substances in the nose has the following characteristics (allergic rhinitis):

  • sneezing
  • itchy nose
  • runny nose
  • nasal congestion

An allergic reaction in the eyes is also possible (allergic conjunctivitis):

  • red eyes
  • itchy eyes
  • watery eyes

Some patients suffer year round, others only for a period of time.

An allergy can also cause:

  • laryngitis
  • ear infections
  • sinusitis
  • asthma: coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing
  • eczema
  • hives (urticaria)

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis

The following tests may reveal an allergy to inhaled substances:

Skin test:
  1. We apply various allergens with a drop on the inside of the forearm or on the back.
  2. We prick the skin under each drop.
  3. After about 15 minutes, we can see if you are allergic or not.
Blood test:

This is not always necessary.

Provocation tests:

These tests allow us to detect food and medication allergies. They are administered in a specialised centre.

Treatment

Avoid the things to which you are allergic.

Treatment of an allergy is always customised for the individual. It depends on the type of allergy and the severity of the symptoms. Talk to your physician about your specific case.

  • Antihistamine: syrup or tablets that reduce your symptoms
  • Nasal spray
  • Anti-allergy eye drops
  • Adrenaline preparation: you give yourself an injection in case of a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
  • Immunotherapy: it changes your immune system so that your body no longer reacts to the allergens or reacts less to them. It is performed using injections under the skin or droplets or tablets under the tongue.

Examples

Treatment centres and specialisations

Ear, nose, and throat diseases
Dermatology
Pneumology

Latest publication date: 31/03/2021
Supervising author: Dr Marin Eline, Dr Van Autryve Els, Dr Lamont Jan