Treatment of skin allergies, itchy eyes and hay fever

The number of allergy sufferers is continuously growing. We say that an allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to common substances in our environment.

In the meantime, already 15 percent of the population suffer from hay fever or skin allergies and seek relief from the unpleasant symptoms.

People with respiratory allergies suffer from itchy eyes, a runny nose, blocked nasal passages and sometimes even shortness of breath and asthma. Inhalable allergens are pollen particles, house dust mites or even mould spores, to mention just some.

Those with food allergies suffer from unpleasant sensations in the mouth and throat or even gastro-intestinal symptoms. Allergens here include, for instance, fruits or types of flour.

People with skin allergies develop eczema and itching on those skin areas that have come into contact with substances that they are unable to tolerate. Consequently they are also referred to as contact allergies. The most common type is an intolerance to nickel in fashion jewellery or skin eczemas caused by cosmetics.

Diagnosing allergies

Only when the allergens that trigger reactions are identified, can contact with them be avoided. That is why targeted allergy testing is so important. Sometimes it even requires investigations similar to detective work.

Testing for respiratory and food allergies is done with a prick test. This entails application of allergen solutions on the surface of the skin – usually the lower arm – and then introduced to the skin by scratching to provoke a response. The results are visible after only 20 minutes. Redness and the formation of welts indicate that an allergic reaction to the test solution has occurred. This is a so-called Type 1 allergy.

The search for contact allergies (Type 4 allergy) is done with so-called epicutaneous testing. Allergic contact reactions are usually delayed and typically occur after a period of several days. That is why this type of test is conducted over a several-day period: the allergens to be tested are usually applied at the beginning of the week by sticking a patch on the patient’s back. Test result readings are done in our office after 24 hours and 72 hours. Redness and swelling underneath the patch are indications of contact allergies.

Allergy therapy

Allergy symptoms are initially treated with remedies like eye drops, nose sprays, oral antihistamines, salves, etc. In order to prevent recurring symptoms, the allergy sufferer must also consistently avoid the substance that triggers the allergic reaction – the so-called allergen – in the future, as well.

If it is not possible to ensure avoidance of an allergen like pollen, house dust or insect poisons, and if the allergy sufferer has already experienced severe symptoms, it is necessary to undergo a specific immune therapy, also known as hyposensitisation or desensitisation therapy.

An allergic reaction is an overreaction of our immune system. The active principle behind hyposensitisation is to slowly become accustomed to the allergen by administering gradually increasing amounts of the allergen. This is done either in the form of injections in the skin (in our office) or by administering the allergens orally in the form of drops or pills, which the patient can do at home. Injections are usually given in monthly intervals. After receiving an injection, the patient must stay in our office for 30 minutes to enable immediate treatment in the case of a severe reaction to the therapy.

Hyposensitisation usually helps relieve allergic symptoms within just a few weeks, but must be repeated over a period of 3-5 years to achieve an effect that is permanent, in some cases even lifelong.