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Pollen allergy : diagnosis and treatment

The pollen allergy is caused by pollen from trees, herbs and grasses, it is a disease which has dramatically increased in developed countries over recent decades.

What are the symptoms ?

The main symptoms of pollen allergy are itching of the nose, palate and ear, repeated sneezing, runny or clogged nose, watery eyes ...

However, pollen allergy may also occur with other symptoms such as nettle rash or asthma and can be associated with other allergies : this is called cross-allergies, mainly with raw fruits and vegetables.

In that case, a person allergic to birch pollen for example, will feel very strong itching or swelling of the mouth when having eaten an apple (a fruit with cross allergy to birch), this during the birch pollen season.

How to diagnose allergy ?

Allergy to pollen can be easily and quickly diagnosed by the ENT doctor. A consultation with an allergy specialist (ENT doctor at Medicis) can help identify the substance(s) that cause allergic reaction (allergens).

At first, the doctor may request a blood test, to check IGE (immunoglobulin E, antibodies produced by the body to fight allergic substances) and RASTS (elements that determine to which substance(s) a person is allergic).

However, the most accurate tests are skin tests called " prick tests ". During these tests, a small amount of the suspected allergic substance(s) is placed on the skin and the doctor then observes whether or not there is a reaction (redness and papule).

These tests can determine what kind of pollen of other pneumo-allergen a person is sensitized. They are also important if you wish to start an allergy desensitization.

Caution : to be valid, all anti-allergic drug should be discontinued at least 7 days before the prick test.

Note that the prick test can be performed throughout the year, and therefore also during non critical periods (eg winter).

And after ? What treatment ?

Antihistamine drugs help to live better during critical periods, but they are not curative.

If you want to reduce or completely remove your pollen allergies, the doctor may suggest an allergy desensitization. This involves exposing the body to tiny amounts of the allergen in question, so that the body will progressively be used to it (and therefore no longer produce antibodies against it).

Desensitization is a slow process, which lasts 4 to 5 years, the positive effects of treatment manifesting gradually.

If you are interested in screening or treatment, you can make an appointment with one of the ENT team at Medicis.

Interesting website : www.allergy.be (Belgian aerobiological surveillance network)