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Frequently Asked Questions
Who is an Allergist? A board certified allergist is a doctor who has earned a medical degree (M.D. or D.O.) and has then completed a three year residency program in either internal medicine or pediatrics. The allergist then completes a second two to three year residency studying allergy, asthma, and immunology. The doctor then successfully completes the allergy board exams to become a board certified allergist and the most prepared physician to treat allergic and immunologic disorders.
Because there are other types of physicians and non-physician practitioners who claim to be "allergists", it is important to check your provider's credentials by going to the following website:www.acaai.org/allergist and clicking on the icon "Find an Allergist".
What is an allergy? An allergy is an overactive response of the immune system to a substance (allergen) that is not generally dangerous to the body. Common allergen sources are dust mites, cats, dogs, cockroaches, pollen, and mold spores. When inhaled, these allergens trigger inflammation in the airway and cause eye, nasal/sinus, chest, and skin symptoms. People can also be allergic to foods, medications, insect stings, and substances such as latex and chemicals. Worldwide allergen sensitization rates are approaching 40%.
Up to 8% of people in the U.S. have a food allergy. Food allergy can cause anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening reaction. Common food allergens are peanut, wheat, soy, milk, eggs, and shellfish. Positive results to skin or blood testing are not diagnostic for food allergy but can be helpful as part of the allergist's evaluation. It is important to accurately diagnose food allergy so that reactions are avoided and the diet is not restricted unnecessarily. Common food allergy symptoms include itching, hives, swelling, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea, and typically occur within minutes to a few hours after the food is eaten. Food allergies do not typically cause nasal congestion, thickened postnasal drainage, body aches, fever, fatigue, or changes in mood or behavior. There is no link between food allergy and disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, autism, or ADD/ADHD.
Stinging insect allergy affects about 3% of adults. Most people experience large localized swelling at the site of an insect sting. This is not a sign of an allergic reaction. Symptoms that occur away from the site of the sting, such as generalized hives or swelling, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness are more suspicious for insect sting allergy. Venom allergy shots are 75-98% effective (depending on the type of insect) in preventing future systemic reactions to stings.
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that is life-threatening. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include a weak and rapid pulse indicating a drop in blood pressure, swelling or constriction of the airway, tongue, or throat that can make breathing difficult, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, and is usually accompanied by hives. People who are at risk for anaphylaxis should always carry injectable epinephrine.
Can I have a "hypoallergenic pet" if I am allergic to animals?
There are no hypoallergenic pets. This is a myth created by breeders of certain animals. People are allergic to the skin scales (dander) and saliva of furry pets, not to the fur itself. Homes with pets will have high animal allergen levels throughout and it can take several months for an allergen to degrade once a pet is removed from a home.
Does mold allergy cause a systemic yeast infection or "Candida Overgrowth Syndrome?"
No. Mold spores cause the same symptoms that any other environmental allergen will trigger in a sensitized person. People commonly get localized fungal infections in the mouth (thrush), vagina (vaginal candidiasis), and nails (onychomycosis) that are treated with short courses of antifungal medications. A systemic yeast infection is a very rare and serious infection that typically only occurs in people with severe immune system disorders. Taking long courses of antifungal therapy for mold allergy or hypothetical "mold overgrowth" in the intestines is not only unhelpful, it can be harmful.