. What should I expect when I see the allergist?

A. Your allergist will discuss your medical history and allergy related symptoms. After a pertinent physical exam, allergy skin testing may be performed. A breathing test may also be performed if there is a history of asthma or cough. Please bring a list of all your current medications, previous allergy medications, and a list of any medication or food allergies with you. Please feel free to call if you have any questions.

Q. What are allergens?

A. Substances that trigger allergic reactions are called allergens. Common allergens include dust mites, pollen, mold, pet dander and certain foods.

Q. What is involved in a skin test?

A. Skin testing helps identify specific allergens involved in triggering your symptoms as well as the severity of those symptoms. Testing is safe and relatively painless. Results are available within fifteen minutes and will be  reviewed with you during your visit. Skin testing is done on the back initially. Allergens that do not react on your back are then tested on your arm. Skin testing can easily be performed on both adults and children of all ages. A special type of skin test is available for children called the Multitest. This test allows testing for several allergens at once, minimizing testing time for your young child or infant.

Q. What about blood tests for allergies?

A. Blood tests (previously called RAST testing) are available to identify allergies. However,  skin testing is more commonly performed and is still the gold standard to pinpoint allergies. Results from skin testing are available in minutes instead of several days for blood tests. Occasionally, blood testing may be recommended for you as an alternative or in addition to skin testing for certain situations.

Q. How are allergies treated?

A. Once your allergist identifies the allergens that are causing your symptoms, a treatment plan will be recommended. This will usually include avoidance of allergens, a treatment plan of medications and possibly allergy injections (immunotherapy) if appropriate. Many people with untreated allergies don’t realize how much better they could feel once their allergies are diagnosed and treated by an allergist.

Q. What about allergy injections?

A. Allergy injections or allergy shots are a form of treatment called immunotherapy. They may offer the best relief for people with persistent allergies that do not respond optimally well to avoidance and medications. They may also be ideal for patients desiring a more permanent solution. Immunotherapy has been proven effective for seasonal allergies like pollen and mold, as well as indoor allergies ranging from dust mites to cat and dog dander. Injections are also available for stinging insect sensitivity to yellow jackets, honey bees, etc.

Allergy injections can provide lasting relief from allergic nasal and eye symptoms. They can also reduce asthma symptoms and may help prevent asthma in children with hay fever. Ask your allergist if allergy injections would be worthwhile for you or your child .