Article written by Dr. Ashish Asawa MD, FAAAAI
Sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, coughing and wheezing. If some or all of these allergy symptoms sound familiar to you, it may be time to get tested. Allergies affect about one out of every five Americans, and often times these frustrating symptoms can go untreated for years.
An allergy is an exaggerated response from your immune system to a normally harmless substance. Common allergens include pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dander, and food. When an allergen is encountered, your immune system unleashes antibodies—proteins designed to protect against foreign invaders. These trigger the release of chemicals called histamines, which are responsible for the telltale symptoms of allergies.
It is essential to identify the allergens that are triggering your symptoms so that an appropriate treatment plan can be tailored accordingly.
What substances can cause allergies?
- Aeroallergens such as dust mite antigen, pet or animal dander, pollens (grasses, weeds, trees), cockroach antigen, mold spores
- Food allergens
- Venom from fire ants, bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets
How can I find out which allergens are triggering my symptoms?
An allergist and immunologist at The Center for ENT can work with you to establish a detailed history and conduct a physical. The allergist and immunologist can then determine if and what testing is needed, and which strategy is appropriate for your you.
Who should be tested for allergies?
Allergies can affect many different organ systems and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Symptoms that often warrant allergy testing include but are not limited to:
- Runny nose
- Nasal and/or chest congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Itchy nose and/or throat
- Coughing and/or wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Skin rash and itching
- Food-induced gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain)
- Severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis
Are there different types of allergy tests?
- Skin allergy testing – One of the most common strategies, skin testing, is an immediate, cost-effective, and sensitive option. There are two forms of skin testing—skin prick testing involves a small amount of allergen applied to the top layer of the skin using a sterile skin testing device. If the skin prick testing is negative, your allergist may do a more sensitive test known as intradermal testing. With intradermal testing a small amount of allergen is injected within the skin, with roughly a 20-minute reaction time.
- Blood allergy testing – Done at a lab since it involves a blood draw, blood testing results are not immediate and is usually done if a patient cannot do skin testing due to any medical complications.
- Challenge testing – Typically recommended to assess for food or medication allergies, challenge tests involve the ingestion of small amounts of the allergen. These tests should only be done under the direct supervision of a physician such as an allergist and immunologist who has specialized training and experience.
Can medications affect the test?
Certain medications can interfere with or counteract allergy testing. It is important to review all your medications with your allergist and immunologist prior to testing.
Why is allergy testing important to my treatment?
An experienced allergist and immunologist can use all the information gathered from your history, physical and allergy testing to determine the best course of action and customized treatment for your symptoms.
If you think it may be time to be tested for allergies, click here or call (713) 328-0828 to schedule an appointment today.
Source: Above Information collected from AAAAI, ACAAI and UpToDate