You know the saying “it’s just the tip of the iceberg” – have you ever thought of it in terms of allergy? About one in five people have allergies, but only a portion of them have the typical allergy symptoms – itching, sneezing, and runny nose – that are associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis. Many others have underlying allergies that cause flare ups and exacerbations of their chronic conditions.
An iceberg metaphor explains this simply. When you see an iceberg, you only see what’s above the surface – a small sliver compared to what lies below the water line. Beneath the surface is a long, large chunk of ice that continues to extend and though you can’t always see it from your vantage point, it’s there.
When it comes to allergy, allergic rhinitis is above the surface. It’s what everyone knows and sees. But, there are also conditions like asthma, sinusitis, eczema, migraines, and IBS that are often triggered by allergy, they’re just not always recognized as allergy.
Identifying and treating the root cause of the underlying allergy can have a positive impact on these conditions. Here’s a glimpse at just a few of the conditions that can be beneath the surface of the allergy iceberg that impact your employees, patients, or friends and family.
Asthma is chronic inflammation in the airways. When other irritants are added into the mix, like smoke, pollution, or environmental allergens, there is increased inflammation, as well as increased symptoms and exacerbations. Nearly 60% of asthmatics have allergic asthma – where allergens are the main cause.
It makes sense. When allergens are inhaled into the lungs, the allergic response is inflammation. Increased inflammation means added symptoms – and it’s not just sneezing and sniffling, it can be:
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Chest tightness
- Irritated throat
Similarly to asthma, sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinus cavities behind the cheekbones. Allergens are inhaled through the nose, can land in the sinus cavities and increase inflammation, causing painful symptoms, like:
- Facial pressure
- Postnasal drip
In a study of 210 patients experiencing sinusitis, researchers at Mayo Clinic found fungus in 96% of mucus. This led researchers to conclude that about 80% of chronic sinusitis cases are truly due to allergy, not bacteria.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is another condition hidden under the surface of the allergic iceberg. It’s common in children, but can occur in people of any age and is often considered a skin allergy or sensitivity. It brings symptoms including:
- Itchy skin which can be severe
- Dry, thickened, cracked, inflamed and/or scaly skin
- Discolored patches of skin – often red to browning-gray
- Raw skin from scratching
Eczema is often the first sign of allergy in children. If not treated, it can progress into other allergic conditions as the child grows, including allergic rhinitis, but also other conditions under the surface of the allergy iceberg.
Treat the cause
These three conditions are often treated with symptom relievers: inhalers for asthma, antibiotics for sinusitis, and topical creams for eczema. While these treatments help symptoms temporarily, they don’t treat the root cause of the issue. Instead, they will be needed over and over, every time you’re exposed to your allergens – that’s a big cost for temporary relief.
Allergy sufferers have another option – testing to identify specific allergies and treating the cause with immunotherapy. Sublingual immunotherapy, or allergy drops, is a safe and convenient option for treating the cause of allergy by training the body to not react to offending allergens. Over time, through consistent and precise exposure to the problem allergen, your body builds tolerance to allergens, resulting in reducing and sometimes eliminating related allergic conditions.
Ready to learn if this might be right for you? Contact us for more information on getting started with a provider near you.
By Taylor Pasell, Allergychoices