An allergy can be defined as an inappropriate response of the immune system to a particular food, drink, pollen, dust which it views as a harmful invader. The substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Some of the symptoms that an allergen can cause are sneezing, coughing, vomiting, rashes or peeling skin.
If you have a doubt that you have allergy symptoms you may need to an allergist or immunologist, who will check up on the symptoms and can confirm an allergy.
To evaluate whether one has an allergy or not and to administer the most effective therapy the doctor gathers the following information after performing a physical examination:
- Details about the signs and symptoms
- Foods that can be possible triggers
- A diary about the possible triggers and symptoms
- A medical history about the family members having a history of asthma or other allergies like eczema, hay fever or hives.
If you have a food allergy the doctor may ask to stop eating the suspected food that triggers the allergy during evaluation. The allergists might recommend the following tests to confirm which allergy symptoms:
- Blood test: Specific IgE (IgE) blood testing also known as Immuno CAP testing measures the level of allergy-causing IgE antibodies which are released by the immune system. This test is commonly called the radioallergosorbent test (RAST). A blood sample of the patient is taken and tested for evidence of sensitivity to the suspected allergen.
- Skin prick test: Also known as prick testing or puncture testing, in this test the skin is pricked and exposed to a small amount of the proteins found in potential allergens.
- Patch test: a Patch test is used to identify eczema. Metal discs with very small amounts of the suspected allergen are attached to the back of the patient. The doctor then checks for any skin reactions after 48 hours and then again after some days.
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After the diagnosis of the condition or the allergy symptoms the allergist may prescribe the following allergy treatment to help live better:
- Avoiding allergens: The best and most effective way to treat and manage allergy is to avoid the allergen or allergy triggers. This includes removing the source of the allergen from your diet (if you have a food allergy), home and other places. Sometimes it is not possible to avoid airborne allergies like dust and pollen but one can reduce symptoms by washing out nose repeatedly.
- Medication: The doctor might prescribe over-the-counter or prescription medicines in the form of pills, nasal spray or eye drops, depending upon the allergy. These medications can help reduce immune system reactions and help subside symptoms.
- Immunotherapy: Some allergies that are not relieved by medications or other treatments doctor might recommend immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is of two types:
- Allergy shots: This treatment involves giving injections of purified allergen extracts over a period of a few years. The patient becomes progressively less sensitive to that allergen. This works well with allergies to pollen, dust, insect stings, pet, and asthma as well.
- SLIT: Sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT involves placing a tablet containing small doses of the allergen under the tongue of the person until it dissolves. The exposure of allergen improves tolerance to the substance and help ease symptoms. SLIT is effective for the treatment of nasal allergies and asthma.
Emergency epinephrine: One might need to carry an emergency epinephrine shot all the time if have a severe allergy. It can reduce symptoms until one needs emergency allergy treatment.