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What Are Allergies?

An allergy is a condition in which your body’s immune system overreacts to normally harmless substances, known as allergens, and releases a chemical called a histamine, which is what stirs up symptoms.

People can experience a range of allergy symptoms, including the ones described here. Eye allergy symptoms are very common and often come as a package deal with upper respiratory symptoms. But they can also occur alone. More than 80% of people with allergies have itchy eyes.

Upper Respiratory

  • Itchy, stuffy, or runny nose with a thin, clear discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy throat

Eyes

  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery or teary eyes

Determining Allergy Triggers

Be an Allergen Detective…narrow down your triggers by asking yourself these 3 simple questions:

  1. When do my allergies occur? Allergies that flare up only during specific seasons could indicate a reaction to an outdoor allergen such as pollen. Allergies that occur more regularly throughout the year may indicate an indoor allergen such as dust mites.
  2. When time of day do my symptoms occur?Upon waking? This might be sensitivity to an indoor allergen such as those triggers found in the bedroom. When you go outside in the morning? This might be a sign of sensitivity to an outdoor allergen such as pollen.
  3. Where am I experiencing my symptoms?At home? Work? Only outside? Location might hold a major clue as to what you’re reacting to. But remember, pollen can come from outside into your home through windows, on clothing or even on pets.

Professional Diagnosis

If your symptoms are severe, or if you’re not sure what’s causing them, a professional diagnosis may start you on the path to finding relief. The following are common allergy diagnosis testing methods:

Scratch test
(also known as a puncture or prick test) In this test, the doctor or nurse places a drop of each potential allergen on a labeled area of your skin, then pricks the outer layer of skin so the potential allergen can enter. After about 15 minutes, the doctor or nurse will look at how your skin reacted.

Intradermal test
In this test, a small amount of the potential allergen is injected just under the skin. After about 15 minutes, the doctor or nurse will look at how your skin reacted.

Patch test
In this test, an allergen is applied to a patch, which is then placed on the skin. In order to determine a reaction, you must wear the patch for about 48 hours, after which you will return to the doctor for evaluation.

Allergy blood test
In this test, called a specific IgE, or RAST (radioallergosorbent test), a blood sample is taken to determine the presence of specific IgE antibodies. The presence of these specific allergic antibodies can determine which allergens cause a person’s allergic reaction.