WHAT IS AN ALLERGY?
Allergies are hypersensitive immune responses to substances that either enter or come in contact with the body, such as pet dander, pollen or bee venom. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an “allergen”. Allergens can be found in food, drinks or the environment. Often times, symptoms are swelling of the nasal mucosa, itchy burning eyes, sneezing, wheezing, fullness in the ears and various skin rashes such as hives, or anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ALLERGIES?
A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, while a sign can be detected by others too. Pain is a symptom and a rash is a sign.
When a person with an allergy comes into contact with an allergen, the allergic reaction is not immediate. The immune system gradually builds up sensitivity to the substance before overreacting to it. The immune system needs time to recognize and remember the allergen. As it becomes sensitive to it, it starts making antibodies to attack it – this process is called sensitization. Sensitization can take from a few days to several years. In many cases the sensitization process is not completed and the patient experiences some symptoms but never a full allergy.
When the immune system reacts to an allergen, there is inflammation and irritation. Signs and symptoms depend on the type of allergen. Allergic reactions may occur in the gut (digestive system), skin, sinuses, airways, eyes, and nasal passages.
WHAT IS ALLERGY SKIN TESTING?
Skin testing, also known as “puncture testing” and “prick testing” is a series of tiny punctures or pricks made into the patient’s skin. Small amounts of suspected allergens and\or their extracts (pollen, dust, molds, food, drugs or venom protein) are introduced to sites on the skin marked with pen. A small plastic or metal device is used to puncture or prick the skin. Common areas for testing include the inside forearm and the back. If the patient is allergic to the substance, then a visible inflammatory reaction will usually occur within 15-20 minutes. This response will range from slight reddening of the skin to a full-blown hive in more sensitive patients. The skin prick test is the most preferred means of testing because of its simplicity and accuracy. Interpretation of the results of the skin prick test is normally done by allergists on a scale of severity, with +/- meaning borderline reactivity and 4+ being a large reaction.
WHAT IS THE STUDY OF IMMUNOLOGY?
Immunology is a broad branch of biomedical science that covers the study of all aspects of the immune system in all organisms. It deals with, among other things, the physiological functioning of the immune system in states of both health and disease; malfunctions of the immune system in immunological disorders (autoimmune disease, hypersensitivities, immune deficiency).
WHAT IS IMMUNOTHERAPY?
Immunotherapy, once called desensitization, is a treatment in which the patient is gradually vaccinated with progressively larger doses of the allergen in question. This can either reduce the severity or eliminate hypersensitivity altogether. The person begins to build up an immunity to increasing amounts of the allergen in question.
WHAT IS IMMUNODEFICIENCY?
The use of immune system components to treat a disease or disorder is known as immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is most commonly used in the context of the treatment of cancers together with chemotherapy (drugs) and radiotherapy (radiation). However, immunotherapy is also often used in the immunosuppressed (such as HIV patients) and people suffering from other non-HIV immune deficiencies or autoimmune diseases.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a chronic illness involving the respiratory system in which the airway occasionally constricts, becomes inflamed, and is lined with excessive amounts of mucus, often in response to one or more triggers. These episodes may be triggered by such things as exposure to an environmental stimulant (or allergen), cold, warm or moist air, exercise or exertion, or emotional stress. In children the most common triggers are viral illness such as those that cause the common cold. This airway narrowing causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Between episodes, most patients feel well but can have mild symptoms and they may remain short of breath after exercise for longer periods of time than the unaffected individual. The symptoms of asthma, which can range from mild to life threatening, can usually, be controlled with a combination of drugs and environmental changes. Public attention in the developed world has recently focused on asthma because of its rapidly increasing prevalence, affecting up to one in four urban children. Symptomatic control of episodes of wheezing and shortness of breath is generally achieved with fast-acting bronchodilators. These are typically provided in pocket sized, metered-dose inhalers.
WHAT IS IVIG?
IVIG is a blood product administered intravenously. IVIG is a solution of globulins containing antibodies normally present in adult human blood. Globulins are simple proteins that provide immunity against disease. A protein is made up of several amino acids which are the microscopic building blocks that make up all cells. IVIG is used as a temporary treatment to elevate platelet counts. It is used to treat three major categories: immune deficiencies, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and acute infections.
Administration every month is usually required for treatment of non-HIV Immune Deficiency. Response to treatment is usually seen in 8 days. Immune Globulin comes in sterile solution and is administered intravenously. It is made in different strengths and sizes.