What to expect when you see an allergist
All you need to know
Be prepared for your first allergist appointment with these tips.
Many people suffer from allergies, and for some people it may be helpful to see an allergist. Allergists can diagnose what specific allergies one suffers from, as well as provide preventative measures and treatments for allergy symptoms.
What exactly is an allergy? An allergy occurs when an abnormal immune response is triggered by something that is usually harmless to the average person. Antibodies are created to attack this foreign substance, producing an allergic response. Everyone’s immune system responds differently to different allergens, and that is why not everyone is allergic to the same things as others. Allergies can be very debilitating for many people, especially when they do not know the specific trigger to their allergy symptoms. If that’s the case, it may be time to see an allergist.
What should one expect when visiting an allergist? First off, it’s helpful to keep a journal of when you had the reaction, what symptoms you noticed, what helped, what made it worse, and what you were doing, eating, or drinking before the reaction occurred. It’s helpful to have this journal for the allergist, so they can try and identify any trends and to provide you with the best treatment possible. It’s also important to write down your family’s history of allergies, some allergies can be passed down from parents, as well as any medications you are taking. Many allergists have a laundry lists of questions they will ask you to best determine what testing and treatment is for you. Be prepared for answering a variety of questions. Some questions include, “What are your symptoms? When did your symptoms begin? Have you recently have a cold or respiratory infection? Are your symptoms worse at specific times of day? Does anything improve or worsen your symptoms? Do you have any pets? Is there a family history of allergies or asthma? Do you smoke or are you exposed to secondhand smoke or air pollutants? What treatments have you tried, and did they help?” While this is a long list of questions, this will help the allergist pinpoint what the specific triggers could be and how to best prevent reactions and treat the symptoms.
How will one be tested for specific allergies? Drawing blood can test some allergies, but the most common diagnostic test includes the skin prick test. The skin prick test involves pricking the skin, usually on the arms or back, and exposing that area to different proteins specific to allergens. Numbers will be written on one’s arm or back, so the allergen can be matched with a number. If one develops a hive, that indicates a positive result. The allergist may request a few things of you before your visit, especially if they are planning on doing the skin prick test. Many people take over the counter anti-histamines to control their allergies. The allergist will request that you stop taking the anti-histamine at least 5 days before the scheduled test. This allows for the drug to be cleared from your system, so a true allergic response can occur with the skin prick test. The symptoms may be unpleasant during this time without the medications, but this provides for the most accurate results. Skin prick results usually take a few hours to develop on your skin, so plan accordingly.
The best thing you can do before your visit is to be well prepared, and take plenty of notes. Talk to your allergist about the best treatment option for you that fits your lifestyle and will best manage your symptoms.