Category Archives: Allergies

What that pesky itch may really mean

Q&A with Dr. Ayesha Siddiqi, Allergist at Chicago ENT

Fast Facts:

  • Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion.
  • In A U.S. survey, more than half (54.6 percent) of the people reported indicated that that they had positive reactions to one or more allergens.

BJ: I want to talk with you a bit today about itching. I’ve had a recent bout of itchy skin for the last few weeks and it can be maddening! I don’t know what is causing it. Is it a common problem?

AS: I see at least three to four patients every day with itching. It can be a symptom all by itself, or it can be accompanied by a rash. The rash could be one of many forms of rashes such as hives, eczema, contact dermatitis.  So, if there’s a rash present, the first order of business is to determine what kind of rash it is. If the itching is present without a rash, then it’s just called pruritis. Pruritis is also seen to occur commonly in temperature extremes, both hot and cold.

BJ: For itching without rash, what is the treatment?

AS: Antihistamines can help, but most times before I prescribe a certain treatment, we’ll run a blood test to see if there is something more sinister going on. There are some systemic conditions that can cause non-specific itching and hives (urticaria) such as thyroid disease, hepatitis, and even parasitic infections.

BJ: If it is a histamine issue, are some people simply more sensitive to histamine than others?

AS: I wouldn’t say exactly that. Someone might get a mosquito bite and get a huge reaction. So they might say, “Oh, I’m so sensitive to mosquito bites!” But the elevated response is probably means already have a high level of histamine in their bodies, and that high histamine level could be caused by environmental allergens that they are unaware of. They could be allergic to pollen, dust, or even their pet, but it’s undiagnosed.

Another condition that causes high histamine in the blood is mastocytosis. Mast cells release histamine and other substances during inflammatory and allergic reactions. With mastocytosis, these mast cells abnormally accumulate in skin and/or internal organs such as the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and small intestines. Mastocytosis can run in families and can be confirmed by a skin biopsy or blood test.

BJ: Histamine is also present in foods, correct? Do you encourage patients to follow a low-histamine diet?

AS: Not everyone needs to go on a histamine restrictive diet, but it can certainly help some patients. I’ve been seeing a trend in this health-conscious society where people are eating a lot of foods such as smoothies with citrus fruit, berries and cherries, which actually trigger histamine release. High histamine foods include other popular items such as wine, yogurt, and avocados.

BJ: There are a lot of over-the-counter antihistamines available. Are there any that you’d recommend over another?

AS: The older generations of antihistamines such as Benadryl do work, but they can also make you drowsy. The newer, non-sedating drugs like Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra and others are preferred. However, if you rely on an over-the-counter for ongoing relief from itching or hives, you should get yourself checked out to determine the actual cause of your symptoms, and we can more accurately and effectively treat your particular condition.

BJ: Let’s get back to the itching, which can be terribly unpleasant and disruptive. Are there any topical products that can offer immediate relief?

AS: Yes. There are a variety of topicals products, such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. A cold compress or ice pack can also stave off the itching. It’s difficult yet important to avoid scratching. Scratching causes additional inflammation, which in turn, heightens the itch response. It’s called the itch-scratch cycle.

BJ: What would you say is the tipping point when one should see an allergist?

AS: If symptoms don’t resolve within a week or two, or if they return when you stop using an over-the-counter medication, it’s time to see a doctor.

To schedule an appointment, call 773-296-5500.

Immunotherapy for Allergies? It’s a thing.

When you suffer from allergies, the symptoms you experience are the result of your body’s immune system reacting to allergens in the environment. When you breathe in these allergens, your immune system forms antibodies that trigger a chemical response causing symptoms like stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, or itchy eyes. These familiar allergy symptoms are actually signs of your immune system overreacting to the allergen.

Continue reading Immunotherapy for Allergies? It’s a thing.

The Peanut Problem: Potential New Therapies for Food Allergies May Be Released in 2019

If your child suffer from food allergies, you are not alone. The prevalence of the “peanut table” in school cafeterias is not a new phenomenon simply because we are suddenly more sensitive to the problem—it’s a result of allergies becoming a problem more than ever before. According to one study, peanut allergies have risen more than threefold in the past 13 years. And a Fair Health study showed that allergy-related doctor and ER visits because of severe food reactions increased from 4.6% in 2007 to 22.1 percent in 2016. Food allergies are on the rise worldwide.

Continue reading The Peanut Problem: Potential New Therapies for Food Allergies May Be Released in 2019

Managing Asthma in Urban Areas 

Dr. Payal Patel is Part of Expert Panel

Asthma is a major noncommunicable disease prevalent across the United States in 7.6% of adults and 8.4% of children. In Chicago, 10.8% of adults reported having asthma in 2014.
In Illinois, the percentage of adults and youth reporting that they are currently having asthma is higher than the percentage nationwide. Continue reading Managing Asthma in Urban Areas 

Cutting-Edge Technology to Detect and Diagnose Asthma

Now Offered at Chicago ENT

Asthma affects an estimated 26 million Americans and is one of the leading causes of work and school absences. Asthma is defined as a serious chronic medical condition causing inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, the passageways that allow air to enter and leave the lungs. Continue reading Cutting-Edge Technology to Detect and Diagnose Asthma

What Are Allergies & Why Do We Get Them?

The 411 on Allergies

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than 50 million Americans including children suffer from allergies. Over 6 million school and work days are missed each year because of allergy symptoms. But what exactly are allergies and why do people suffer from them while others don’t? We sat down with Dr. Payal Patel, board-certified pediatric and adult allergy and immunology physician at ChicagoENT and asked her to give us the 411 on allergies. Continue reading What Are Allergies & Why Do We Get Them?



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting consumers of a voluntary recall of specific lots of Mylan’s and Pfizer’s Epipen and Epipen Jr. Auto-Injectors.  This recall is due to two reports of potential defect that could make the device difficult to activate in an emergency.Information may change about this recall so please check for updated information. Continue reading SAFETY RECALL NOTICE