Q & A

Why did you choose Allergy and Immunology?

I was intrigued by the immune system because it can affect every system in the body. If it is overactive the patient will have allergies or autoimmune disease.  If it is deficient the patient is at risk for infections. The Texas Children's Hospital Allergy and Immunology Department had cared for David the bubble boy.  WIth their demonstrated  willingness to tackle difficult problems, it was an excellent place to gain experience with a variety of patients.

Later,  I experienced the challenge of raising a child with asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergy.  She now handles all aspects of her peanut allergy.  She has managed one reaction (hopefully her last).  My experiences with my family gives me a better understanding of what my patients and their families are going through. 

Why do people have allergies?

The tendency to have allergies is generally inherited.  Allergies begin in the immune system.  The immune system's job is to tell the difference between self and non-self.  (e.g. this cell is skin and that cell is bacteria). It is also designed to protect us from invading organisms causing illness.  If you have allergies your immune system mistakes a harmless substance such as a ragweed pollen for an invader. 

What treatment options are available for allergies?

Avoidance is always the first step, if it is possible.  If it is not or it doesn't control the symptoms, there are a variety of choices including air filters, over the counter medication, prescription medication and immunotherapy.  Immunotherapy is the only therapy that can change the natural history of the disease.  That means for most patients your symptoms will remain improved for a number of years after the immunotherapy.  It is available as injections (RUSH, accelerated or standard) and sublingual drops that can be administered at home.