You’re not alone if the start of spring means more than the return of blossoming flowers and leaves on the trees. If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer, like up to 30% of U.S. adults and up to 40% of children, you associate this time of year with chronic sneezing, sniffling, and coughing.
Seasonal allergies trigger allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, which includes sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, watery eyes, and an itchy nose, eyes, or roof of your mouth. These symptoms occur when you breathe in an allergen, such as pollen or ragweed, that triggers an allergic reaction.
The reaction results because your immune system mistakes the pollen or ragweed for dangerous substances and sends antibodies to fight them off. The antibodies produce histamine, which causes the symptoms of hay fever.
Identifying the cause of your allergy symptoms before you start sniffling and sneezing can make them more manageable. Allergy testing can determine the specific allergens that trigger your reactions. The results can help you prepare ways to treat your symptoms before they occur.
The physicians at Macomb Medical Clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan, provide expert allergy testing and treatment. The team of allergy testing specialists can locate the source of your seasonal allergies using several types of in-office allergy testing. Based on your results, they provide a treatment plan that can help alleviate your hay fever symptoms, so you can feel better and enjoy the warm weather feeling more comfortable.
There are two types of skin tests for seasonal allergies: skin prick tests and intradermal tests. A skin prick allergy test can check for your immediate reaction for up to 40 different allergens, including pollen and ragweed, simultaneously. Adults usually have the test performed on their forearm, while children receive the pricks on their backs.
You don’t have to worry about the pain or blood from multiple needles with a skin prick test. The procedure uses needles that barely penetrate the skin’s surface, so you only feel minor discomfort, similar to a fingernail scratch.
During the procedure, a small mark is drawn on your skin and an allergen is applied next to each mark. A lancet is used to push the extracts into your skin; the procedure is repeated for each allergen tested.
An intradermal skin test requires the injection of a small amount of each diluted allergen into your skin to determine if there’s a reaction at the injection site. Small and very thin needles minimize discomfort. You may require an intradermal skin test if you have negative results from a skin prick test but your physician still suspects allergies.
For either skin test, it takes about 15-20 minutes to determine if your skin shows signs of an allergic reaction. Signs of allergy include the presence of a wheal, a raised, red, itchy bump that looks like a hive or mosquito bite. The larger the wheal, the more likely that you’re allergic to the allergen.
You may require allergen blood tests for seasonal allergies if you have a severe skin condition or take medication that could alter the results of skin testing. Blood tests can also provide an option if you can’t tolerate the number of needles required for skin prick testing.
After drawing a blood sample, your physician sends the sample to a laboratory. The lab combines each allergen, such as pollen or ragweed, to your blood sample and measures the number of antibodies your blood produces to attack the allergens. These tests typically screen for at least 10 of the most common allergy triggers, such as trees, grasses, and weeds, in your geographic region.
After your allergy test identifies the source of your seasonal allergies, your physician works with you to develop a treatment plan based on your specific allergens, symptoms, and overall health.
Treatment for seasonal allergies includes avoidance, eliminating or decreasing your exposure to the allergens, over-the-counter or prescription medication, or a combination of these strategies. If you have a history of seasonal allergies, you may benefit from taking medication about two weeks before symptoms begin.
Depending on the severity of your allergy, you may consider immunotherapy. This treatment involves receiving a series of allergy shots that modify your body’s immune response to your known allergens to provide long-term relief.
Find out what’s causing your hay fever by identifying the source of your seasonal allergies. Schedule an appointment online or call Macomb Medical Center today to arrange a consultation.