Asthma is a chronic illness that affects the airways resulting in symptoms of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and/or chest tightness. The symptoms of asthma are due to inflammation, hyperreactivity and constriction of the airways. Asthma symptoms can be triggered by numerous factors such as allergens, irritants, viral infections, exercise, sinusitis, weather changes, and acid reflux. Poorly controlled asthma has significant negative effects on work, school, and overall well-being. Severe exacerbations can result in death.
Although asthma cannot be cured, symptoms can be controlled. In-office consultation will help determine whether your respiratory symptoms are due to asthma and which factors trigger exacerbations. Skin testing will determine allergic sensitivities. A comprehensive treatment plan includes education about asthma, appropriate avoidance measures, medical therapy, and allergy shots (if appropriate).
Allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as "hay fever", causes nasal allergy symptoms such as itching, runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and postnasal drainage. It is caused by the same inflammatory response that occurs with asthma, only in the upper airway, and is due to inhaling allergens such as pollen, mold spores, dust mite and cockroach particles, and animal dander.
These symptoms can be also be triggered by non-allergens such as cigarette smoke and other chemicals, weather changes, infections, and medications. Allergic rhinitis can lead to complications such as ear and sinus infections, sore throat, coughing, disrupted sleep, and headaches. Some allergens can be avoided, medications can help with symptom control, and allergy injections (immunotherapy) can decrease an individual's sensitivity to their allergens and decrease the need for medication and environmental control.
Eye allergy symptoms occur when the allergen irritates the membrane that covers the eye and the inside of the eyelid, the conjunctiva. The eye can itch, swell, water, and become red. Allergic conjunctivitis can be mistaken for an infection, such as pink eye. People commonly have more difficulty with eye allergy symptoms in the spring and fall when the pollen and mold spore counts are highest, but can be triggered by other allergens as well. Allergy eye drops and oral antihistamines help many people but others suffer so severely that they choose allergy injections for better long term control.
Hives (urticaria) are red, raised, swollen areas of skin that occur anywhere on the body. Typically, they appear suddenly and last less than 24 hours. Common causes of hives include allergic reactions (e.g., foods or medications) and viral infections.
Angioedema consists of significant swelling that involves deeper layers of skin. There is usually no redness or itching. Common sites of involvement are lips, eyelids, and genitals. Involvement of the tongue or throat can result in life threatening airway obstruction. Angioedema may occur with or without hives. Angioedema may be caused by allergic reactions (e.g., foods or medications) or genetic disorders (hereditary angioedema).
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a red, scaly, itchy rash that commonly affects the face, elbows, and knees. It is more common in children but also occurs in adults. Flare-ups can be triggered by allergens (e.g., foods, dust mites) or non-specific factors.
Contact Dermatitis is a rash that occurs after a substance comes into contact with the skin. In allergic contact dermatitis, the immune system produces a delayed hypersensitivity reaction resulting in an itchy, red, oozing reaction. A typical example is poison ivy dermatitis. Other causes include metals, perfumes, cosmetics, dyes, and rubber products. In irritant contact dermatitis, a non-allergic reaction occurs resulting in damage to the skin. Typically it results more in pain than itching. Patch testing can help determine if there is an allergic cause for your rash.
Foods can bother people via many different mechanisms and many of these are mistakenly labelled as "allergy". It is important to distinguish between a true food allergy and a food intolerance because exposure to a food allergen can be life threatening. Between 2-5% of children and up to 4% of adults have food allergy and the most common food triggers are eggs, cow's milk, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Skin tests and blood tests are helpful tools for the allergist but are not diagnostic by themselves. It is important to prevent life-threatening food allergy reactions but it is also important to avoid mislabeling someone with a food allergy they do not actually have so that their diet is not unnecessarily restricted and they do not experience unnecessary fear or anxiety. Typical manifestations of food allergy include hives, itching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms usually occur within minutes of ingesting the food.
If the immune system is not working properly, or at all, an immune deficiency is present. A primary immune deficiency is hereditary, not acquired by infection. There are many types of primary immune deficiency that are diagnosed by allergists/immunologists. Primary immunodeficiency may be suspected if there is a history of recurrent, unusual, or difficult to treat infections, poor growth, recurrent deep organ or skin abscesses, or a family history of an immune disorder.
Consultation with a board certified Allergist-Immunologist is helpful to determine the specific diagnosis and determine a comprehensive treatment plan to provide satisfactory relief of symptoms.
Copyright Central Indiana Allergy. All rights reserved.
Immune Deficiency Foundation
Learn about primary immune deficiencies.
National Allergy Bureau
Check pollen and mold spore counts in Indianapolis and throughout the U.S.
National Eczema Association
Information about eczema.
American Board of Allergy and Immunology
Learn about the qualifications of an Allergist-Immunologist.
American Board of Medical Specialties
Check to see if your doctor is board certified.
At Central Indiana Allergy, we feel our patients achieve better results managing their allergies when they are well informed.
We encourage all patients to learn as much as possible about the causes of allergy symptoms and take an active role with us in treatments.
The information below is designed to help you understand about various types of conditions, underlying causes, and how we can help you manage them best. If you have any questions about this information, please feel free to call our office. We will be happy to talk with you.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Information for patients regarding allergies and asthma.
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
For comprehensive information on allergies and asthma, visit the ACAAI's patient education website. The site provides trusted resources on a variety of topics, including food allergies, allergy testing, and eye allergies.
For quick access to their patient education website, visit
For quick access to their current asthma and allergy news releases, visit
Food Allergy Research and Education
(formerly known as Food Allergy and Anaphylaxsis Network)
Learn about food allergies and anaphylaxis.