An allergy is a response within the body to a substance in the environment. This could be something you eat, inhale or touch. The London Dermatology CentreTM offers a comprehensive allergy service tailored to your needs. Our allergy service is led by Dr Ien Chan, consultant dermatologist, who has many years experience of treating allergy in adults and children in both the NHS and in the private sector.
Around one third of the UK population currently has or will suffer from an allergy at some point in their life. Every year the number of people who suffer from allergy increases by around 5%. Having an allergy can be difficult to manage and can interfere with everyday life. The majority of allergy and allergic symptoms are caused by a few allergens including: peanuts, seafood, egg, dust mites, grass pollen, mould, latex and animal dander. These are the most common allergens. However, there are hundreds of possible triggers for allergy and it can be difficult to know exactly what is causing your symptoms. Allergy may cause months and years of inconvenience and misery, especially if you are unsure of what is causing your symptoms.
As almost any substance can cause an allergy it is often difficult for the individual to identify what is causing the problem. We specialise in the identification of allergens and the treatment of allergy. We offer a variety of tests from patch testing to specific allergy blood tests in order to find the causal factor or factors. Here at the London Dermatology CentreTM we aim to help you understand, avoid and treat the causative allergen empowering you to manage your condition effectively.
Atopy is the genetic tendency to develop allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema and hay fever. It can also make you more likely to be sensitive to allergens. Eczema is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the upper layers of the skin. One in five children in the UK is affected by eczema. It is most common in children but can affect people of all ages. You can find out more about eczema here.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can come on suddenly or develop over a few hours. The symptoms will also depend on the severity of the allergy itself. In some people an allergic reaction can present with a rash and in others it can be so severe as to cause anaphylaxis.
The most common symptoms of allergy:
Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and can be life-threatening.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
If you are worried that someone is having a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, this is an emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately.
In your first consultation your doctor will complete a thorough allergy assessment. This will involve going through your allergy and medical history and any concerns you may have. Your doctor may also want to examine you in order to complete their assessment. In this consultation your doctor will discuss with you the possible causes of your allergy. It may be necessary for you to have a special blood test that can show your level of sensitivity to a group of different allergens. Your doctor will be able to advise on the best method of identifying the allergen or allergens causing your symptoms. The results of these tests will usually be ready in 48 hours.
If we suspect that your allergy may be caused by something that comes into contact with your skin you may need a patch test. This involves putting stickers (patches) on your upper back containing the allergens which most commonly cause skin allergy such as metals, fragrances, hair dye, preservatives etc. You will need to leave the patches on your back, undisturbed for 48 hours. These will then be removed by your doctor and the results of your patch test will be discussed with you. Should any of the panels come back with a positive result your doctor will be able to advise you on the day of your appointment, what allergens you are sensitive to, according to the patch test. Please stop any antihistamine medication 3 days before your consultation and if possible bring in a list of suspected causes for your allergy.
You will need to attend for a follow up consultation about a week after your first appointment. We will give you your allergy test results and these will be discussed with you in detail. You will be given written information on how to avoid substances that you are found to be allergic to and you will be provided with advice on controlling your allergies as well as treating your symptoms. Should you have ongoing symptoms of allergy, your doctor will discuss with you, your treatment options. There are a range of available medications to help reduce the symptoms of allergy. These range from topical therapies to tablets. Antihistamines are very commonly used tablets to help reduce the symptoms of allergy as well as preventing a possible reaction from occurring. These tablets are commonly taken by hay fever sufferers who are allergic to grasses and pollens but can be used to help with many different types of allergy. A type of medication called a decongestant, can come in all different forms from tablets to nasal sprays. These are used to reduce the allergy symptoms associated with a blocked nose. Itchiness is a very common symptom of allergy which can be reduced by lotions and creams. Emollients can reduce skin irritation and calm the sensation of itchiness. Other medications include steroids which help to reduce inflammation and swelling that is caused by allergic reactions.
Almost anything can cause a reaction on your skin if you are allergic to it. Some of the most common allergens are household cleaners such as soap, laundry detergent and disinfectants. Your Dermatologist will speak to you during your initial consultation about whether you have made any recent changes to the products you normally use.
Another common cause of irritated skin is clothing, especially materials such as wool, which can be particularly problematic for those with a disorder called atopic dermatitis.
Fragrances and skin care products are another common cause of skin discomfort and rashes. Your Dermatologist will speak with you about the products you are using and if you have introduced any new perfumes or skin care into your routine, to see if this might be the root of the problem. Some common irritants which you can check labels for are ascorbic acid, paraben preservatives, glycolic acid, malic acid, and lactic acid.
Skin allergies can also be caused by consuming or handling certain foods, so any changes to your diet will be discussed during your appointment, as well.
It’s also worth pointing out that even if you have not made any changes to your diet or the products you use, it’s possible that you have developed an allergy to something that you use regularly. That’s why booking an appointment with one of our allergy experts and getting professional patch testing is the best and most effective way to find the root cause and alleviate your symptoms.
We are extremely confident that we will be able to find the cause of your allergy, and therefore be able to eliminate symptoms completely by removing the irritant (with lifestyle adaptations or simple changes to products/ diet).
In other cases, where an allergen may be harder to avoid (such as a dust or plant allergy), we can provide medication and topical treatments to greatly reduce your symptoms, and offer expert advice on how to do this.
For more information regarding our allergy treatment clinic, please call 020 7467 3720.
Content by Dr Sunil Chopra and Rebecca Perris.