I know we are still in the depths of Winter but Spring will come soon enough and with it, seasonal allergies. Before the misery starts, it might be a good idea to get tested by your doctor if you think you may be prone to allergies.
If you suffer from an allergy, it usually manifests itself in spring and fall. You begin to have difficulty breathing, your nose runs as you cough and sneeze, and your eyes water and itch. Most people opt for the doctor’s prescribed medications or run to the drugstore and try the hit and miss method of over-the-counter remedies.
Allergens (things that cause an allergy) are too numerous to list but the most common are dust and pollen. Some are also allergic to cats, bees, wasps and certain foods such as dairy products, nuts and fruits. In rare cases, people can be allergic to household chemicals and medications such as penicillin. The reaction can range from simply annoying to life-threatening. If you know what you’re allergic to you can take steps to avoid it but if you don’t know you’re stuck with the trial and error method.
Doctors can perform allergy tests to determine exactly what you’re allergic to and prescribe ways to prevent any further discomfort. About one in three people will seek a doctor for allergy testing during their lifetime. They usually wait until the pain and discomfort has become unbearable which is totally unnecessary because allergy testing has become increasingly more sophisticated, accurate and affordable.
There are three prime tests for allergens that are causing your body harm. They’re the skin prick, patch and blood tests. All three can be performed in the physician’s office experiencing little discomfort or expense. With the results, you can obtain proper medication and/or avoid the cause.
The skin prick test is simple and quick. It can be performed on all age groups including babies. Up to 40 allergens can be tested simultaneously with the pricks done on the back or arm. Each prick is mildly painful depending on your pain tolerance. You can wait for the results, usually available in about 20 minutes. Patients should avoid taking antihistamines and other medications about six weeks prior to testing or inconclusive results may occur.
The patch test is done with various allergens prepared and spread on a small metal disc. These discs are placed on the skin, usually the back, and left on for 48 hours. Patients are cautioned to keep the patches dry until they’re removed and test results are determined.
The blood test is most helpful when unusual or rare allergens are suspected. It also can be performed in the doctor’s office with a small amount of blood drawn from a vein in the arm. The discomfort is minimal but it may take up to two weeks to gain results.
All tests should be interpreted by the doctor after a full review of the patient’s history of allergic reactions. A person’s immune system and how it reacts to certain substances can change as that person ages. There is little need to take the tests unless you’re willing to act on the results. In other words, be prepared to take the needed medications or avoidance measures to prevent recurrence on whatever positive results are indicated.