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Environmental Allergies

Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to substances in a person’s everyday surroundings, such as pollen, dust mites, mold, pet dander, and cockroaches. Common symptoms include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes, fatigue, headaches, wheezing, and dark under-eye circles.

Environmental allergies are caused when the immune system produces antibodies to fight allergens that are normally harmless. Risk factors include being a child, having a family history of allergies, and having asthma or another type of allergic disorder.

What is Allergy?

Allergies arise from an individual’s immune system’s reaction to environmental substances that are generally considered harmless. These materials are referred to as allergens.

When someone with allergies encounters an allergen, their body releases chemicals like histamine that cause allergy symptoms.

Common allergens include:

  • Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander, fur, urine, and saliva
  • Mold
  • Certain foods like milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish
  • Insect venom, especially from bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants
  • Latex
  • Some medications like antibiotics and NSAIDs

The symptoms of allergy are sometimes mild and sometimes become threaten for life. They often involve the nose, eyes, lungs, skin, and digestive system. Mild symptoms include sneezing, itching, hives, and shortness of breath. Severe reactions called anaphylaxis can cause swelling, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

Allergies are very common, affecting over 50 million people in the U.S. each year. They are more likely to develop if a person’s biological parents have allergies. Treatments include avoidance of allergens, antihistamines, decongestants, nasal steroids, asthma medications, and immunotherapy.

Allergy ICD 10 Codes

The ICD-10 codes for allergic conditions are:

  • Allergic rhinitis: J30.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis: H10.1
  • Asthma: J45.
  • Predominantly allergic asthma: J45.0
  • Status asthmaticus: J46.X
  • Food allergy:
  • Allergic and dietetic gastroenteritis and colitis: K52.2
  • Dermatitis due to ingested food: L27.2
  • Other adverse food reactions: T78.1
  • Atopic dermatitis: L20.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: L23.
  • Urticaria: L50.
  • Anaphylactic reaction to food: T78.0
  • Anaphylactic shock, unspecified: T78.2
  • Angioneurotic edema: T78.3
  • Allergy, unspecified: T78.4
  • If someone has personal allergy of drugs, medicines or any other biological substances.
  • Personal history of allergy to drugs, medicaments and biological substances: Z88.
  • Other nonmedicinal substance allergy status: Z91.048

The most common codes are J30.9 for allergic rhinitis, T78.40XA for unspecified allergy, and Z88.9 for allergy status to unspecified drugs, medicaments and biological substances.

Winter Allergies

Winter allergies are caused by exposure to indoor allergens that are more prevalent during the colder months when people spend more time indoors.

The most common indoor allergens that trigger winter allergies include:

  • Dust mites, which thrive in warm, damp environments and are found in bedding, furniture, and carpets
  • Pet dander (skin flakes and hair) from dogs and cats that gets into household dust and sticks to many indoor surfaces
  • Mold, which grows in dark, moist areas like bathrooms, basements, and under sinks
  • Cockroach droppings and body parts

Symptoms of winter allergies are similar to other seasonal allergies and can include

  • Sneezing
  • Itching
  • Rashes
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • watery eyes

Allergy symptoms tend to last longer than a cold and do not cause fever or body aches like a cold.

To manage winter allergies, it’s important to reduce exposure to indoor allergens by frequently dusting and vacuuming, using hypoallergenic bedding, washing curtains and pet bedding regularly, controlling humidity, and keeping pets out of bedrooms. Over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, and allergy shots can also help relieve symptoms.

Summer Allergies

Summer allergies are triggered by various factors such as

  • Pollen
  • Smog
  • Stinging insects
  • Molds
  • Dust mites
  • Ragweed, grasses, and weeds like cockle weed and pigweed are common culprits for summer allergies

Additionally, smog, particularly ozone, can exacerbate symptoms during the summer months. Stinging insects like bees and wasps are more active in summer, potentially causing severe allergic reactions. Warm air in summer also promotes the growth of molds and dust mites, leading to allergic reactions.

Symptoms of summer allergies include

Treatment options range from over-the-counter medications like antihistamines and nasal sprays to prescription medications and immunotherapy for severe cases. To manage summer allergies, it is advised to stay indoors during high pollen and smog levels, keep windows closed, use air purifiers, and maintain cleanliness to reduce allergen exposure.

Essential Oils for treating Allergy

Here are some of the most effective essential oils for treating allergy symptoms:

  • Lavender Oil

Lavender essential oil can help soothe allergy symptoms due to its ability to calm inflammation. One study found that lavender oil prevents allergic inflammation and reduces mucous cell expansion. Try using lavender in a diffuser for aromatherapy or dilute it in a carrier oil and add to a bath.

  • Peppermint Oil

Inhaling diffused peppermint oil can immediately unclog sinuses and relieve scratchy throats. Peppermint acts as an expectorant and provides relief for allergies, colds, coughs, sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis by reducing inflammation and discharging phlegm. Diffuse 5 drops at home, take 1-2 drops internally in water/tea, or apply diluted topically to chest, neck and temples.

  • Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is a potent anti-inflammatory that can help relieve allergy congestion. The cooling sensation when inhaled provides comfort for seasonal allergy symptoms. Diffuse eucalyptus into the air or breathe directly from the bottle. However, eucalyptus can trigger allergies in some people.

  • Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties that may help with skin allergies. It reduces inflammation when applied topically, but may cause contact dermatitis in some people. Use diluted on affected skin areas.

  • Lemon Oil

Lemon essential oil can help clear sinuses and relieve congestion, common symptoms of seasonal allergies. Diffuse to boost mood or dilute and apply to skin for allergy relief. Avoid sun exposure after topical application as it increases photosensitivity.

Other helpful oils include frankincense, ravensara, chamomile, and a blend of eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano and rosemary. Consult a doctor before using these oils to treat allergies.

Creams for treating Allergies

Here are some of the best creams for treating skin allergies and itching:

  • E45 Itch Relief Cream – This cream contains the active ingredient hydrocortisone acetate which helps reduce inflammation and itching caused by allergies or irritation.
  • Aveeno Maximum Strength 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream – Aveeno’s cream contains 1% hydrocortisone to provide relief for eczema-prone and dry skin.
  • CeraVe 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream – This fragrance-free cream helps relieve eczema and dry, itchy skin. It contains 3 essential ceramides to support the skin’s protective barrier.
  • Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Repairing Body Lotion – Formulated for sensitive skin, this daily moisturizer contains prebiotic oat, aloe and pro-vitamin B5 to help restore the skin’s moisture barrier.
  • Benadryl Triple Action Itch Cream – Containing the antihistamine diphenhydramine, this cream provides fast relief from itchy skin due to allergies, insect bites, sunburn or minor irritations.

When choosing an anti-itch cream, look for ones containing ingredients like hydrocortisone, colloidal oatmeal, ceramides or antihistamines. Avoid creams with fragrances or preservatives if you have sensitive skin. If symptoms persist or worsen, consult a dermatologist for proper treatment.

Medication for Allergies

There are several types of medications used to treat allergy symptoms, including:

  • Antihistamines: These work by blocking histamine, a chemical released by the immune system in response to allergens. Antihistamines can come in oral, nasal spray, or eye drop forms and help relieve symptoms like sneezing, itchy/runny nose, and itchy/watery eyes.
  • Decongestants: Oral decongestants like pseudoephedrine can provide rapid, short-term relief from nasal and sinus congestion, but may cause side effects like insomnia and increased blood pressure.
  • Combination antihistamine/decongestant medications: These contain both an antihistamine and a decongestant in a single pill, such as Zyrtec-D, Claritin-D, etc.
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays: These help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and can provide long-term relief of allergy symptoms.
  • Allergy shots/immunotherapy: This involves getting regular injections of the allergens to desensitize the immune system over time.

When choosing an allergy medication, factors to consider include the type of allergy symptoms, potential side effects, and whether the medication is available over-the-counter or requires a prescription. Consulting with a healthcare provider can help determine the most appropriate allergy treatment.

Allergy test at home

An at-home allergy test allows individuals to test for allergies conveniently from home by measuring their body’s immune response to various allergens. These tests typically involve taking

  • a small blood sample, either through a finger prick or a blood draw
  • sending it to a laboratory for analysis

The results, which are usually available within 7 days, indicate the body’s reactivity to specific allergens, providing insights into potential allergy triggers like foods or environmental allergens. It’s important to note that while at-home allergy tests can be a useful initial step in identifying allergies, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consulting a healthcare professional, especially an allergist, for a comprehensive evaluation and interpretation of the results is recommended, particularly for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment planning.

Summary

Environmental allergies refer to hypersensitive immune responses to substances in the environment like pollen, dust mites, animal dander, or mold. These allergies can lead to various symptoms affecting the respiratory system, skin, and eyes. Environmental allergens can include pollen, dust mites, mold, pet dander, and various irritants like smoke and perfumes. Testing for environmental allergies can be done through skin tests like the skin prick test or patch test to identify specific allergens causing reactions.

FAQ’s

1: Can allergies cause shortness of breath?

Yes, allergies can cause shortness of breath in certain situations:

  • Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, affects the nose and sinuses and can lead to severe nasal congestion. This congestion can make it difficult to breathe through the nose, resulting in shortness of breath.
  • Allergic asthma is a type of asthma triggered by allergens like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or mold. When exposed to these triggers, the airways become inflamed and narrowed, making it hard to breathe and causing symptoms like coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
  • Anaphylaxis is a severe, whole-body allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. It often involves difficulty breathing due to throat swelling and constriction of the airways. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical treatment.
  • Severe allergic reactions to foods, insect stings, or medications can also cause shortness of breath as part of the body’s inflammatory response.

If you experience new or worsening shortness of breath that you suspect is allergy-related, it’s important to see an allergist or doctor. They can perform tests to identify your triggers and develop an appropriate treatment plan to help you breathe easier.

2: Do humidifiers help with allergies?

Yes, humidifiers can help alleviate allergy symptoms by maintaining an optimal humidity level of 30-50% in your home. By adding moisture to the air, humidifiers can make the air more comfortable, reducing sinus inflammation and other symptoms like dry skin, stuffy nose, and scratchy throat.

Humidifiers, however, only offer momentary relief, so they ought to be a component of a thorough allergy care strategy. It’s crucial to keep your humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and algae, which can actually worsen allergies if released into the air.

Different types of humidifiers have unique benefits:

  • Warm mist humidifiers heat water into soothing steam, suitable for colder climates
  • Cool mist humidifiers use fans to disperse cool mist, making them versatile for larger spaces
  • Evaporative humidifiers circulate humidity
  • Air washer humidifiers purify and humidify
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers use vibrations to create moisture
  • Steam vapor humidifiers release steam and can destroy bacteria, mold, and algae

While humidifiers can help soothe allergy symptoms, they don’t actually remove allergens like dust, pollen, or pet dander from the air. For that, an air purifier with a HEPA filter is more effective. Humidifiers are best used in combination with other allergy relief methods for optimal results.

3: What to do when allergy medicine does not work?

If your allergy medicine is not providing relief, there are several steps you can take:

  • Get tested by an allergist to identify the specific allergens triggering your symptoms. If diagnosis is incorrect it will led to inadequate treatment.
  • Explore alternative medications like decongestants, corticosteroids, or leukotriene modifiers if antihistamines are not working. Your doctor may also recommend a higher dosage or combining multiple medications.
  • Practice avoidance by limiting exposure to known allergens, especially during peak pollen times. Make environmental changes like using air purifiers, removing carpets, and washing bedding frequently.
  • Consider immunotherapy (allergy shots or sublingual tablets) if medications alone are insufficient. This treatment gradually exposes you to small amounts of allergens to build tolerance.
  • Try nasal irrigation with a neti pot or saline spray to flush out allergens and mucus. Some people find relief from natural remedies like acupuncture or dietary changes as well.
  • Take a planned break from your medication to reduce tolerance, but always consult your doctor first.
  • Evaluate if another condition like chronic sinusitis or nasal polyps could be causing allergy-like symptoms.

The key is working closely with your allergist or immunologist to find the right combination of treatments tailored to your specific needs and symptoms. With the proper management, you can find relief and improve your quality of life.

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