What is an Allergy?
An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a harmless stimulus, such as dust, pollen, grass, pet dander, mold, etc. The immune system believes it is being invaded by a parasite rather than a harmless allergen in the environment; and therefore, it rallies its defenses to fight off the enemy.
The list of symptoms caused by allergies is longer than you might think. Primary signs of allergies include:
- Runny or congested nose
- Watery and itchy eyes
- Frequent ear infections
- Sinus headaches
- Nasal polyps
- Conjunctivitis (eye irritation)
- Muscle/joint pain
- Skin rashes and eczema
- Mental problems, such as confusion, slow thinking, depression and forgetfulness
- Respiratory effects, including endless colds, chronic cough, recurrent bronchitis
Of course, there are many possible reasons for these symptoms. The only way to know if they are caused by allergies is to take an allergy test. Lake Country Pediatrics, S.C. offers a pain-free skin test that provides answers in just 15 minutes. At Lake Country Pediatrics, S.C., we can perform the test and read the results on the spot.
What happens during the skin test:
To test for allergies, we use the industry standard skin testing technique. Skin testing involves introducing a variety of suspected antigens or allergy-producing substances onto the skin through tiny plastic scratches. The test begins with the nurse practitioner cleaning your skin on your back with an alcohol swab. This may feel cool and slightly wet. The nurse practitioner will then gently press a M.A.S.T., or Multiple Allergy Skin Testing applicator onto the skin. The M.A.S.T. is a small eight-pronged comb with tiny tines at the end of it.
As the first set of antigens is applied to your skin, you’ll feel slight pressure from the tines of the testing device. This will last for just a few seconds and then be repeated in a few areas, depending on how many antigens are tested that day. You can expect a slight itching sensation as the positive results develop. The size of the reaction, both the wheal and flare (raised lump and surrounding inflammation), will be recorded at the end of 15 minutes.
It is a good idea to bring an iPad or a new toy for your little one to look at during the 15-minute test, as it is a good distraction. It is important that the back is not scratched during this time. After 15 minutes, the back is wiped clean of the antigens. Hydrocortisone and Benadryl or zyrtec are offered at the end of the appointment to ease any discomfort. The nurse practitioner then will explain the results and discuss your options for treatment, if applicable.
Lake Country Pediatrics, S.C. provides both traditional subcutaneous allergy injections (i.e. allergy shots) as well as sublingual allergy immunotherapy (i.e. drops under the tongue).
What is SLIT? (Sublingual Immunotherapy)
Unlike most allergy drugs—which treat only symptoms—sublingual immunotherapy addresses the underlying causes of allergies. Allergy drops are taken in gradually increasing doses until the patient develops a tolerance to the allergy-causing substance.
Low doses of harmless allergens are placed under the tongue where they are absorbed by tiny capillaries. These allergens then attach to dendritic cells, which in turn affect the TH2 cells in ways that reduce and/or eliminate allergies and related symptoms. Allergy drops are taken daily in your own home. Similar to traditional allergy shots, sublingual drops are taken for a period of 3-5 years.
What is SCIT? (Subcutaneous Immunotherapy)
SCIT also addresses the underlying causes of allergies. Subcutaneous immunotherapy is the historical route of administration and consists of allergen extract injections. Injections are taken in gradually increasing doses until the patient develops a tolerance to the allergy-causing substance. Subcutaneous immunotherapy protocols generally involve weekly injections during a build-up phase, followed by monthly maintenance injections for a period of 3-5 years. Subcutaneous immunotherapy can only be performed with medical observation during a 30-minute office visit.
Allergy Nurse Practitioner
Nanette (Nettie) Palay, MSN, CPNP, received her master’s from Marquette University as a pediatric nurse practitioner. She spent her final clinical rotation at the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Nettie is board certified as a pediatric nurse practitioner and nationally certified as a massage therapist. She has a strong interest in allergy because she has been a lifelong sufferer.