Content reviewed by Marcy D. Markes, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC
Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergic disease, and the incidence is increasing each decade. When most of us think of allergies, we think of sneezing, a runny nose or watery eyes. These are symptoms for some types of allergies, but other symptoms can include itchy skin, repeated ear infections, repeated sinusitis, reoccurring bronchitis, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, sleep disorders and chronic nasal congestion or post nasal drainage.
It is not fully understood why some substances trigger allergies and others do not, nor why some people develop allergic responses while some do not. The single most important factor that predisposes a person to develop allergic diseases is the family history. If one parent has allergic disease, the percentage of the child developing the allergic disease can be as high as 48-50%. If both parents have allergic diseases, then the percentage goes up to 70%.
Symptoms of allergies can be perennial, year around, or seasonal. Perennial allergens are dust, dust mites, cockroaches, cats, dogs and some molds. Food allergies can be considered perennial and can present with symptoms such as upset stomach, diarrhea, itchy skin and/or hives. In infants and children, food allergies can also present with reoccurring ear infections and should be ruled out before pursuing “tubes”. Seasonal allergens are trees, grasses, weeds and some molds. All allergens can cause symptoms that are more commonly known as “hayfever” with itchy eyes, runny nose, itchy ears, itchy nose, watery eyes and perhaps even hives. These allergens can also cause “late phase” reactions that are post nasal drainage, throat clearing, nasal congestion and increasing episodes of sinusitis, fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, eczema and increasing episodes of bronchitis or asthma.
If you or a loved one suffers from any of the above symptoms, there is a good chance that your symptoms may be caused by allergens.