When an allergy isn't an allergy

RENO, NV (KOLO) It's estimated more than 50,000,000 Americans suffer from various types of allergies each year.

They can be seasonal, or affect the patient all year long.

Janet Antonini says when she got a bee sting that didn't subside it was time to go to the doctor.

“It was very very itchy, and that was the start,” says Janet. “Then I got a little bite from a little ant quite large, nine little ones and I thought ok I must be allergic to bees and ants,” she says

Janet gave a history, answered plenty of questions, and then received a blood test.

“I wasn't allergic,” she says.

“Doesn't sound just right. There is something off here, there is something strange here,” Dr. Boris Lokshin with Allergy & Asthma Associates says of cases like Janet’s.

Turns out Janet had what's called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

Mast cells come from bone marrow and serve an important function when dealing with invaders to the body like germs and viruses. They also help in wound healing.

They are associated with inflammation and in normal function they play a role in reacting to harmless allergens by releasing histamine as if they were a threat.

But in this syndrome, mast cells work indiscriminately.

”We have to be careful how we make the diagnosis, and listen carefully to the story, and do our best thinking through,” says Dr. Lokshin. “Rather than just jump to the easiest conclusion. Ok you have an allergy. Medicine is complicated. It just is there is no way around it. And I am glad I have this experience now,” he says.

Dr. Lokshin says the syndrome first appeared in medical literature in 2007.

He saw his first case in 2010.

While some patients with this syndrome don't have to worry about allergies, that doesn't mean they walk away from the doctor's office without medication.

antihistamines are the most common drug prescribed.

Dr. Lokshin says one interesting aspect of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, patients don’t appear to suffer any worse symptoms compared to the first time they came to see an allergist.

However, the downside, there is no cure