Allergies and Immunology

Allergies

Australia has one of the highest prevalences of allergy in the world, with around 20% of us suffering from one or more allergies. For reasons not yet understood, this figure is increasing in Australia and across the developed world.

Allergy is an over sensitivity to substances in food or the environment that produces an adverse immune response in the body. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from trivial and annoying, to catastrophic. An allergic reaction can be a one off event or recurring and life long. Symptoms vary from person to person and depend also on the kind of allergen (substance causing the allergy). Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • swelling of the throat or lips

  • trouble breathing, wheezing or coughing

  • skin irritations, including itchy lumps ("hives"), rashes and swelling

  • itchy, swollen, watery and red eyes

  • diarrhoea, vomiting and and stomach pains

The most severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, and without medical intervention it can be life-threatening.  Anaphylaxis usually presents within minutes of being exposed to the allergen, and the person may experience: 

  • restricted breathing, caused by swelling of the throat or tongue

  • low blood pressure

  • pale or red skin

  • confusion or panic

  • loss of consciousness

Allergy sufferers who are prone to anaphylaxisis should be thoroughly assessed by an immunologist and carry an adrenaline injection (EpiPen) with them at all times for emergency self treatment.

Common allergens include: dust mites, pollens, animal hair, shellfish, nuts, eggs, and medications.

Food intolerances

Food intolerances are not the same as allergy. They relate to an individual's gut being unable to deal with natural or synthetic chemicals present in food. Symptoms of food intolerances may include:

  • bloating and / or stomach pain

  • headache or migraine

  • diarrhoea

Common foods that individuals have an intolerance for, include: wheat products; dairy products; MSG; wine, citrus fruits, food additives, chocolate.

How We Care

We know that having an allergy or a food intolerance can have a significant impact on quality of life. Our doctors are aware that tracking down allergies can be consuming, both of time and money, and that much confusion exists around the topic. We can guide you towards the most helpful resources.  Allergy and food intolerance are managed by many different specialists including immunologists, dermatologists, respiratory physicians, gastroenterologists and dietitians. Our doctors assess the severity of your symptoms can arrange referral to an immunologist or dermatologist for tests to determine the specific cause. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests for allergy proteins to common allergens

  • Spirometry (Lung Function Tests - to assesses how well the lungs can move air and to diagnose asthma)

  • Nasal smear test - done by examining a sample of the patient’s nasal fluid to confirm a diagnosis of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), by checking the presence of cells only apparent in patients with allergies

  • Food elimination diets, breath testing and dietitian referral - to determine the body's intolerance to certain food types.

Once a diagnosis has been made, we will provide management guidelines relating to both prevention of trigger factors and treatment options.

In severe cases, our Doctors may recommend that the patient see an immunologist or other appropriate specialsit. We can arrange the referral for further tests and treatment.

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