Just because you didn’t have allergies as a child doesn’t mean that you’re immune. Allergies can develop at any time in life—from infancy to old age. You may have limped through past allergy seasons, seeking relief from a litany of pills and nasal sprays. Very often, though, these medications are only partially effective, and even if they do work, they don’t fix the underlying problem. Your allergies will come right back once you stop the medicine.
The next step is allergy immunotherapy. If you suspect that allergy immunotherapy may be right for you, see your physician. Here’s what to expect from your doctor’s visit.
1. Medical history. Your doctor will probably start by having you complete a medical history form that asks about the nature of your allergy symptoms. These symptoms may include the following:
- Eczema or hives
- Runny or stuffed-up nose
- Red, itchy eyes
- Wheezing or asthma
- Chronic cough
- Chronic sinus or ear infections
- Gastrointestinal problems (for food allergies)
Your doctor will likely be interested in knowing about the duration and severity of your allergies. This will help them determine if allergy treatment is in order. They may ask about potential allergy triggers, such as seasonal pollens, pet dander, mold, dust, etc.
2. Check-up. Your doctor will probably want to examine you for visible signs of allergy. They may check for rashes on your skin (if you have a history of eczema or hives). They may listen to your breathing and inspect your throat, ears and the lining of your nose.
3. Allergy testing. If your doctor deems it appropriate, he or she may recommend testing with an allergy test kit.
- Blood test. There are different types of blood tests, but their basic purpose is to measure the amount of antigen-specific antibodies in the blood. If your doctor does not have the necessary allergy testing supplies, he or she can refer you out for blood testing.
- Skin test. This is the preferred method of allergy testing and comes in a few different varieties, including intradermal testing, which involves injecting traces of allergen extract into the skin and measuring the resulting bump (wheal) that develops on the surface of the skin.
While allergy tests generally produce accurate results, they are not perfect. They can sometimes give false positives or negatives. When combined with your allergy history and physical manifestations of allergy, however, your doctor should be able to make an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.
Your doctor may recommend a subcutaneous or sublingual immunotherapy clinic. Subcutaneous immunotherapy is the medical term for allergy shots. Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is more commonly referred to as allergy drops. SLIT works much like allergy shots, but it is safer. It is also more convenient because it can be administered at home as daily oral allergy drops that absorb into the bloodstream through special cells in the mouth.