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 from allergies.

Characteristics:

Characteristics of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) include:

  • sneezing
  • itchy nose
  • runny nose
  • nasal congestion

An allergic reaction in the eyes is also possible (allergic conjunctivitis):
The most common characteristics are:

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

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

Diagnosis and treatment

Dr Van Autryve performs a skin test.

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:

A blood test is not always necessary.

Provocation tests:

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

Treatment

Avoid the things to which you are allergic. Allergy treatments are 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.

The most common treatments are:

  • 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 less strongly. It is performed with injections under the skin, or with droplets/tablets under the tongue.

Examples

Common examples of allergies are:

Treatment centres and specialisations

Ear, nose, and throat diseases
Dermatology
Pneumology

Latest publication date: 11/08/2021
Supervising author: Dr Vermeiren Judith, Dr Van Autryve Els, Dr Lamont Jan