Allergy Testing Q & A
What are allergies?
Allergies are an inappropriate immune response to a foreign substance. Pollen, dust, pet dander, and food are not harmful substances, but if you have allergies, it’s as though your body believes they are dangerous.
The substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. If you have allergies, your body will experience an inflammatory response when you come in contact with your specific allergen.
Some people have a mild allergic response, while others have severe symptoms. For some people, allergies can be potentially life-threatening if they have anaphylaxis, a dangerous reaction that occurs quickly and can interfere with breathing and organ function.
What are the symptoms of allergies?
Allergy symptoms vary depending on the type of allergy and individual factors. Environmental allergies often cause hay fever or allergic rhinitis, which involves symptoms similar to a cold, such as sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and a stuffy or runny nose.
Certain foods, insect bites or stings, and allergies to medications may cause the following symptoms:
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat
- Intense, full-body itching
- Difficulty breathing
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is an allergic skin condition that causes itching, patches of redness, and scaling or peeling of the skin.
How are allergies diagnosed?
The expert providers at High Rock Internal Medicine perform skin and blood tests to diagnose allergies.
Some allergens produce antibodies that enter your bloodstream. A blood test looks for these antibodies to determine if you have allergies.
When your provider performs a skin test, they will prick your skin with a sterile instrument, and then expose your skin to a tiny amount of potential allergens. If your body experiences an inflammatory response, such as redness or bumps, you are allergic to that specific allergen.
Should I be tested for allergies?
Your provider may recommend allergy testing if you have allergy symptoms or you have a family history of allergies. Allergy testing may also be helpful if you have certain medical conditions, such as:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic headaches
- Stomach or digestive problems
Reducing your exposure to allergens may improve or eradicate some of these conditions—for example, COPD.
How are allergies treated?
Treatment options for allergies include allergen avoidance, over-the-counter or prescription medications, and immunotherapy.
If you have an allergy that could result in anaphylaxis, you may need to carry an epinephrine pen, which contains a dose of a life-saving medication you can inject in case of emergency.
To learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of allergies at High Rock Internal Medicine, call the office today, or make an appointment online.