What is an allergy?
The word allergy is derived from the Greek word allegros, which means an unusual or altered reaction. About 15 to 20 percent of the United States population develops this unusual reaction to pollen, molds, house dust, animal danders and chemicals. This happens because of a biological tendency of the immune (defense) system of the body to overreact to these otherwise harmless substances. The body is “overreacting” in an attempt to expel (runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing) substances that it perceives as harmful. This tendency frequently runs in the family.
How are allergies treated?
Because allergies are determined by your genes, there is no complete cure for allergies, but they are controllable with modern treatments. There is no need to suffer from allergy symptoms.
There are three modes of treatment for allergy:
1. Avoidance of allergy-causing agents (e.g., pet dander)
This is very important part of controlling allergies.
Very effective medications, with relatively minor side effects, are available to control allergies.
3. Immunotherapy (allergy shots)
Allergy shots are given only when complete avoidance is not possible (e.g., pollen, molds, house dust, animal danders and insect venoms) and medications do not completely control symptoms. Allergy shots treat the cause of the disease by modifying the body’s response at the molecular level to resemble a non-allergic state. Medications generally control the body’s response (and therefore symptoms) but do not prevent the response, and therefore are not a substitute for injections. Medications and injections are complimentary to each other.
To get the maximum relief from symptoms, patients often need to more than one type of treatment. A single mode of treatment is likely to lead to incomplete relief.
Why have allergy shots when very effective medications are available?
Allergy shots have the following major advantages over medication:
- Shots restore the defense system of the body, at the molecular level, to resemble people without allergies.
- Shots prevent the development of new allergies.
- Shots prevent the development of asthma in persons with allergic rhinits (hay fever).
- The benefit of shots lasts even after they are discontinued.
Medications do not have any of the above benefits. Medications help you as long as you keep taking them regularly (usually each day) but the benefits from medications stops when you stop taking them. Because allergies are a chronic (i.e. long lasting) problem, most patients have to take medications for long time.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO BE AWARE OF THESE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEDICATIONS AND ALLERGY SHOTS BEFORE MAKING DECISIONS REGARDING YOUR TREATMENT.
What is an Allergist?
An allergist is a physician specially trained to manage and treat allergies and asthma. Becoming an allergist/immunologist requires completion of at least nine years of training:
Medical School (4 years)
Residency in Internal Medicine or Pediatrics (3 years)
Fellowship (specialized training) in Allergy and Immunology (2 years)
Kulwant S. Dhaliwal, MD has an Internal Medicine background.
Amrit K. Dhaliwal, MD has a Pediatrics background.
Both completed their Fellowship in Allergy & Immunology at the Medical College of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Wisconsin.