Considering Allergy Treatment? A Few Tips for Getting Started

Allergies can strike at any age. Some people have them as babies. Other people develop allergies in adulthood—some even in their senior years. If you suspect allergies, see a physician. An allergy exam usually consists of three main things:

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1. Medical history. Your doctor may have you fill out a medical history survey, asking about your experience with different allergy-related conditions. These may include allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye), asthma, recurring cough or bronchitis, eczema, hives, runny or congested nose, and ear infections (common in allergic children). The doctor may also ask you about some symptoms that you may not have even known can be linked to allergy including fatigue, hyperactivity, and headache. Finally, your physician may also ask about food allergy symptoms since food allergiesand environmental allergies often go hand in hand. Food allergy can cause many of the same symptoms as pollen allergies but can also cause nausea, vomiting, and cramps.

Your doctor may ask about any special sensitivity you have noticed in relation to your environment, such as whether you feel your allergies getting worse as pollens increase, as you enter dusty or moldy areas, or as you are exposed to cats and dogs.

2. Physical examination. Your doctor may check for physical manifestations of allergy. They may note any skin issues that you are experiencing such as hives or eczema. They may look at your throat and in your ears and also at the lining of your nose.

3. Allergy test. If there is a strong enough case for allergies, your doctor may recommend an allergy test for you (from a food allergy test kit or environmental test kit). The tests can come in two forms:

  1. Blood test
  2. Skin test. There are three types of skin tests:
  1. Skin prick. A small amount of allergen extract is placed on the skin. A needle penetrates the skin, allowing the allergen to enter the skin. The resulting raised area (called a “wheal”) is measured to gauge the severity of the allergy.
  2. Intradermal. A needle is used to inject traces of allergen extracts into the skin.
  3. Skin patch. This test is primarily used for measuring allergies that come in contact with skin such as cleaners, fragrances, and plants like poison ivy.

While allergy tests can be quite accurate, they are not foolproof. Tests can sometimes give false positives or negatives. When considered in conjunction with your medical history and physical exam, though, your doctor should be able to make an accurate assessment about the nature and scope of your allergies. This will guide them in recommending allergy immunotherapy treatment—either through allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy allergy drops.