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Comprehensive Allergy-Immunology Clinic

Allergy-Immunology Overview

Allergies, an immune reaction to foreign substances called allergens, are generally harmless. When the immune system recognizes an allergen, it releases chemicals - such as histamines and leukotrienes - to fight it off, which may cause:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Mucus production
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Other symptoms

UPMC has a long tradition in immunology research and training.

Our specialists are trained in the study of how our bodies protect us from, and respond to, foreign macromolecules or invading organisms, such as:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Protozoa or even larger parasites

The multidisciplinary team in UPMC’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, collaborate, both inside and outside of the Comprehensive Lung Center at UPMC, to treat:

  • Allergies
  • Deficiencies of the immune system
  • Various diseases associated with allergic and immunologic disorders

Our experts

Meet the allergy-immunology multidisciplinary team.

Our Experts and Area of Expertise:

Additional Resources

Learn more about the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine.

Diagnosing Allergies, Asthma, and Immunodeficiencies

At UPMC, the initial evaluation of people who are suspected to have allergies, asthma, or immunodeficiency, includes:

  • A thorough physical examination
  • An evaluation of past medical history
  • A comprehensive assessment of symptoms

Allergy symptoms

Allergies can cause symptoms that involve your:

  • Skin
  • Sinuses
  • Airways
  • Digestive system

The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritations to potentially life-threatening emergencies.

Immunodeficiency can cause recurrent infections of the:

  • Sinuses
  • Lungs
  • Other organ systems

The most prevalent adult immunodeficiency is common variable immunodeficiency, which can be treated with antibody infusions to boost the immune system to help fend off infections.

Testing for allergies, asthma, and immune deficiencies

To help make a diagnosis, UPMC specialists may order the following tests and procedures:

  • Laboratory studies – to evaluate many allergic and immunologic diseases
  • Allergy skin testing – to  evaluate allergic symptoms to pollen, dust mites, molds, pets, bee stings, and foods
  • Patch skin test – to check for allergic reactions to chemicals and metals
  • Medication allergy testing – if skin testing is negative, our experts may give you the medication to rule out allergy
  • Nasal endoscopy- to better evaluate chronic sinusitis versus allergies
  • Pulmonary function tests – to assess the functional status of the lungs
  • Exhaled nitric oxide – a new biomarker for asthma
  • Methacholine challenge test – to rule out asthma
  • Radiologic studies – to help differentiate asthma from sinus disease
  • Flexible laryngoscopy – to evaluate for vocal cord dysfunction (spasms), which can often mimic asthma or cause cough or throat tightness

Allergy, Asthma, and Immunodeficiency Treatments

While allergies or immune problems can't be cured, the experts at UPMC offer a number of specialized treatments to help relieve your symptoms.

Allergy treatments

  • Allergy shots to:
      • Help with allergy symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, sneezing, and post-nasal drip
      • Decrease sensitivities to allergens on a long-term basis
  • Modified rush immunotherapy – a rapid way of giving allergy shots to reach the appropriate dose quicker
  • Drug desensitization for medication allergies – administering medication by starting at very low doses and gradually increasing the doses
      • Inpatient drug desensitization: for intravenous (veins) medications
      • Outpatient drug desensitization: for oral medications

Asthma treatments

  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Research protocols
  • Breathing exercise training – instructions on how to breathe during vocal cord dysfunction (spasm) attacks

Learn more about asthma treatments at the Comprehensive Lung Center.

Immune deficiency treatments

  • Antibody infusions to treat common variable immunodeficiency