There’s no doubt that the sneezing, itching, and runny nose caused by allergies can make you miserable. If you’re one of the 50 million Americans suffering from allergies, take heart because effective treatment is available. Before you can get treatment, however, you need allergy testing.
If you’re ready to take the first step toward allergy relief, you can get allergy testing and treatment from the experienced team at Macombs Medical Clinic.
Here’s why you need allergy testing
Allergies develop when something that’s normally harmless gets tagged by your immune system as a danger to your body. The tagged item is now an allergen, which can be one of numerous possible substances, such as:
- Airborne allergens, like tree and ragweed pollen, mold spores, dust mites, and pet dander
- Contact allergens, like poison ivy, soap, latex, and metals
- Food allergens, like peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish
- Venom, from bees, wasps, and yellow jackets
- Medications, which could be any medication but typically comes from penicillin
While antihistamines and other medications provide temporary symptom relief no matter which allergen causes the problem, there’s only one way to treat the allergy rather than the symptoms, and that’s with immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy delivers specific treatment
Immunotherapy provides effective allergy relief through a series of injections given on a regular schedule. Your treatment begins with a tiny dose of allergen — just enough to tickle your immune system without causing a big allergic reaction — then the dose is gradually increased with each shot.
As your immune system is exposed to the allergen, it gradually develops resistance and begins to tolerate the substance. As a result, your allergy symptoms significantly decrease, and in some cases they may completely disappear.
Allergy shots are only effective if they contain your specific allergens. That’s why the first step is allergy testing to identify your allergens.
Types of allergy tests
Before we administer an allergy test, we review your medical history and carefully evaluate any skin symptoms that may be present, like a rash or hives. We’ll also talk with you about when your symptoms occur and determine whether we can associate your symptoms with exposure to specific types of allergens. This information guides our choice of allergens to use during testing.
These are the different types of allergy tests that are available:
Skin prick test
To perform a skin prick test, we apply a small dose of several suspected allergens in defined areas on your arm or back. Then we gently prick the area under each allergen, allowing the allergen to get under your skin. If you’re allergic to any of the allergens, you’ll develop a skin reaction in about 15 minutes.
Intradermal skin test
This is a variation of a skin prick test in which the allergen is injected just below the skin’s surface. An intradermal test is more sensitive than the skin prick test. We often recommend this test when we suspect a venom or penicillin allergy that wasn’t found on your skin prick test.
When we suspect you’re allergic to a contact allergen, we use a patch test. Patches may come preloaded with the most common contact allergens for our area, or we can place your suspected allergens on a blank patch.
The patch, which contains an adhesive, is placed on your back. You wear it for several days, then come back to the office so we can check for skin reactions to specific allergens.
We may recommend a blood test when a skin test can’t be performed. Blood tests detect antibodies, which are used by your immune system to identify and target allergens. As a result, they can diagnose food, pollen, mold, medicine, dust, animal, and insect allergies.
A word about food allergies
Researchers are working at a rapid pace to develop oral immunotherapy to treat food allergies. In December 2018, a clinical trial testing oral immunotherapy for peanut allergies reported that two-thirds of the children in the study were able to eat two peanuts without suffering a severe reaction. But there’s still a long way to go before this treatment is approved.
While studies continue to produce promising results, the only way to treat a food allergy for now is to eliminate the food from your diet. The team at Macombs Medical Clinic can help with food allergies too, beginning with allergy testing to determine which foods cause your allergies.