Everything you need to know for Allergy Testing and Seeing a Doctor
Are you suffering from allergies and in need of an allergy test? If so, you’re in the right place, we offer a full range of allergy testing options as well as consultations, treatment and guidance from our Consultant Immunologist. Most allergies occur when the immune system, the natural defence of your body, overreacts to an irritant in the environment. This overreaction may be the reason for:
- Runny nose
- Watery or itchy eyes
- Blocked sinuses
- Skin Rashes
- Breathing difficulties
Types of allergens
- Inhaled allergens usually affect your body when they get into contact with the membranes of throat, nostrils and lungs.
- Ingested allergens in certain foods such as soy, seafood, and peanuts.
Different types of allergy problems
There might be an allergic reaction anywhere in the body but symptoms are usually experienced in the eyes, throat, nose, lungs, sinuses, the lining of your stomach and skin.
Allergic rhinitis can be used to describe allergic reactions that may occur in the nose. Symptoms include – runny nose, congestion, itching of your eyes, nose and mouth and sneezing. When the problem is being triggered by moulds or pollens, this condition is usually known as "hay fever."
The symptoms of asthma occur when the airway muscles block air flow to the lungs and the linings of your bronchial tubes get inflamed. An asthma attack is usually characterised by restricted breathing, a tight feeling in the chest, wheezing or coughing. Asthma may lead to mild discomfort or might manifest in life-threatening attacks when the breathing stops completely.
Atopic and Contact Dermatitis – Atopic and contact dermatitis, hives and eczema are some conditions of your skin that may occur due to allergens and other irritants. The reaction might take a few hours or days to develop. Common allergic causes of rashes are insect stings, medicines, animals, foods and chemicals which are being used at home or work. Allergies may worsen where there is emotional stress.
Anaphylaxis – Anaphylaxis is a rare fatal allergic reaction that may affect different body parts simultaneously. The trigger might be due to some medication, foods, or insect sting. Symptoms may be any or all the following:
- Diarrhoea or vomiting
- Difficulty in breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Redness on the skin
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
- Sudden drop in blood pressure level
These symptoms usually begin to develop without any warning and become worse quickly. The affected person is advised to visit A&E immediately.
Why you need to perform allergy testing
Allergies generally affect more than 50 million people and allergies to inhalants are the most common. Hay fever and seasonal allergies may affect more than 40 million people. Allergy testing may help to know which specific substances (known as allergens) to which you may be allergic. You may require medication to treat the allergies or have to avoid the allergens altogether.
How to prepare for allergy testing
Before conducting allergy tests, the immunologist will take a full medical history, including previous allergies and family history of allergies. They will tell you if you should not take specific medications before the allergy test as they may affect the results, some of these may include:
- prescription and over-the-counter medications
- anti-IgE monoclonal antibody asthma therapy and omalizumab
- tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline
- heartburn treatment medications like famotidine
- benzodiazepines such as lorazepam or diazepam
What to expect at your allergy test
An allergy test involves either conducting a blood test or a skin prick test. You may need to follow an elimination diet if the doctor thinks you have a food allergy.
- Skin tests – Skin tests can be used to detect different allergens which can be airborne, contact allergens and food-related. The three kinds of skin tests include – scratch, patch and intradermal. The doctor may try a scratch test at first in which the allergen will be placed in a liquid on your skin. A special tool will be used that punctures the surface of your skin. You will be monitored to find out whether there is skin reaction like swelling, redness, or itchiness.
- When conducting a scratch test, your doctor will ask for intradermal skin test. In this test, a small amount of allergen gets injected into the dermis skin layer so that the doctor can monitor your reaction. Another skin test is the patch test which uses adhesive patches with suspected allergens and places the patches on the skin. These patches will then be reviewed after 48 hours and again after 72 to 96 hours after application.
- Blood tests – If there is any chance that you may have severe allergic reaction to the skin test. The doctor may conduct a blood test to detect the presence of antibodies that can fight specific allergens. This test is known as ImmunoCAP which has achieves greater success in the detection of IgE antibodies to major allergens.
- Elimination diet – An elimination diet can help the doctor identify the foods that may lead to an allergic reaction. Certain foods will be removed from your diet and then reintroduced. The reaction will determine the foods that are causing problems.
When you need to see an immunologist
If you are experiencingsymptoms of an allergy, then you should see an immunologist. Allergies or asthma develop gradually over time and the sufferers become accustomed to the symptoms of chronic allergy such as nasal congestion, wheezing or sneezing. By seeing an immunologist, these symptoms may be controlled or prevented resulting in a major improvement in your overall quality of life.
Controlling allergies and asthma will require proper planning, the necessary expert treatment and patience. The immunologist will develop a treatment plan to treat the condition of the patient with the goal always to lead a normal life free from all symptoms.
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