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Health Information Recognizing and Managing Allergies

Do you feel as if you use more than you fair share of tissues? Do you get more colds than the average person? Do your eyes sometimes itch? If you're troubled by upper respiratory symptoms for more than 10 days in a row you may be having an allergic reaction.

Often times people mistake allergies for colds or the flu. A cold usually lasts about a five to seven days, but allergy symptoms can stay around longer or until you remove yourself from the irritant. "You need to observe your symptoms carefully to distinguish between a cold and an allergic reaction," says Mary Kay Tobin, MD, director of clinical services in the Allergy Division at Rush.

If you have allergies you're not alone; more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergic diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health. And a recent nationwide survey found that more than half of all Americans test positive to one or more allergens. "The good news is that there are therapies that can help," says Tobin.

Some classic signs of an allergy are:

  • Sneezing or other cold symptoms that last more than 10 days without a fever.
  • Frequent throat clearing, hoarseness, coughing or wheezing.
  • Watery or itchy eyes that last more than 10 days.
  • Repeated ear and sinus infections.
  • Loss of smell or taste.
  • Dark circles under the eyes (this can be caused by congested blood flow near the sinuses).

You may have only one of the above signs or you may have more. "If you have any of these symptoms, you should look at your environment and see if there may be an allergic trigger," Tobin says. "If you don't feel better after removing the suspected allergen from your environment or you can't figure out why you have the symptoms, you should be tested."

Common sources of allergens:

  • Indoor
    • House dust
    • Pet hair and dander
    • Mold
    • Dust mites
    • Cockroaches
  • Outdoor
    • Pollen, from trees, and weeds
    • Grass
    • Venom of some insects, such as bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants
  • Food
    • Peanuts
    • Tree nuts
    • Eggs
    • Soy
    • Wheat
    • Milk

As you become more aware of the possible triggers, you may notice that the child in your life may also be experiencing allergic symptoms. "To recognize allergies in your child it may be something as subtle as the fact that they have trouble keeping up with the other kids," says Tobin. "In fact, this might indicate that the child is experiencing allergic asthma."

Food allergies can also be a concern, especially in children. "If one of the child's parents has a food allergy, I recommend waiting until two or three years of age before introducing that food into the child's diet."

"Allergies and can really have a negative impact on the quality of life," says Tobin. "Getting good treatment early can have such an amazing influence in the long term."

Dr. Tobin will be speaking about recognizing and managing allergies and asthma on Saturday, April 8, 2006, at 9:00 a.m. in Room 994 of the Amour Academic Center at Rush. To register use our Online Registration Form or phone 888 352-RUSH (7874).

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For information on allergy and asthma care at Rush visit the Allergy and Immunology home page.
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874).

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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