How Allergies Are Diagnosed
Your doctor will have many questions about your overall health history and your allergic symptoms. This information will help your doctor determine what type of allergy you have and what allergy treatment is available. It is important for your doctor to know what kind of symptoms you have and how severe they are.
Since you may not have symptoms on the day you see the doctor, you may want to think about your symptoms and write down as much as you can before your visit. Then, be sure to bring your notes with you to your next visit to the doctor’s office. Since your doctor may ask about your family history of allergies, it is a good idea to talk with other family members about that before your visit to the doctor.
You may find that some family members do not have any obvious allergic symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose or itchy eyes, but may have severe headaches or chronic nasal congestion that may be related to an allergy. Any information you are able to obtain will be helpful to your doctor.
When you first arrive at your doctor’s office, you may be asked to fill out forms about your symptoms. These forms will also ask about any known triggers, as well as any pattern of symptoms.
Your doctor will examine you and focus on the areas of the body that are affected by allergy symptoms. You may also have allergy testing done at this time to identify specific substances you are allergic to. These tests may include skin or blood tests. You may also have breathing tests or x-rays to see if your allergies may be affecting your lungs.
Options for Allergy Treatment
There are basically 3 ways to manage your allergies: avoidance of allergens, medications, and allergy immunotherapy (“allergy shots”).
Avoidance of Allergens
The cornerstone of allergy treatment is avoidance of the allergens. You have to be exposed to allergens in order to have symptoms.
Therefore, if you don’t ever come into contact with your allergens, you won’t have allergy symptoms. Your doctor will provide you with important steps to take to reduce exposure to offending allergens. Avoiding contact with irritating chemicals, such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, insect sprays, can also help keep allergy symptoms in check.
It is not always possible or feasible for some people to completely avoid their allergens without making major changes in their lives. This is especially true of outdoor airborne allergens, such as pollens and molds or indoor airborne allergens such as dust mites or the family pet.
You are probably already familiar with the various kinds of medications that are used to treat allergies. Antihistamines, decongestants, topical nasal steroids, eye drops, and cromolyn may help relieve symptoms temporarily.
Some of these medications are available without a prescription while others require a prescription. Medications may need to be taken several times a day, may cause side effects, and only treat the symptoms of allergies, not the actual cause of the problem.
Allergy Immunotherapy (“Allergy Shots”)
Allergy immunotherapy (“allergy shots”) has been used for over 100 years by people who cannot avoid their allergens or for those individuals that do not get adequate relief from medications.
Immunotherapy is different from medications because it actually changes the way the body reacts to allergens. Doctors often rely on immunotherapy to help control or even eliminate allergic symptoms for their patients.