Allergy Testing and Treatment

Allergy testing can be done to find out what substances – or allergens – may cause an allergic reaction in patients.  There are several testing methods, including:

Skin testing

The skin prick test can be done to identify inhaled and airborne allergens, such as pollens, molds, dust mites, feathers and pet dander. This test can also identify food allergens, such as eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, wheat or soybeans. Skin tests work by exposing a person to suspected allergens and seeing if a reaction occurs.

With skin testing, a patient may feel a slight pricking sensation when the needle penetrates the skin.  If someone has an allergic reaction from any of the skin tests, they may experience some itching, tenderness or swelling where the allergen solutions were put on the skin.

Blood testing

A blood test may be done instead of a skin prick test if a person has hives or another skin condition that makes it hard to see skin testing results, or cannot stop taking a medicine such as an antihistamine that may prevent or reduce a reaction to a substance, even when they are allergic to it.  Another reason to use this method would be if the patient has had a severe allergic reaction, or has had positive skin tests to many foods. Allergy blood tests look for substances in the blood called antibodies.

The method of testing we use will indicate not only what you are allergic to, but also how allergic you are.  This type of testing can also help determine whether a person may have a drug allergy or be allergic to insect stings and bites. Once we determine what you are allergic to, we can attempt to minimize exposure.

Because avoidance is often not practical in the real world, we often prescribe a specific medication to aid in allergy treatment.  A number of medications are useful in the treatment of allergies, including antihistamines, decongestants, cromolyn, leukotriene inhibitors, and cortisone-type preparations. Hypertonic saline irrigations can also help a lot. This allows the patient to literally wash the allergens and irritants out of their nose. Nasal steroid sprays also work incredibly well for allergies.

The only “cure” available for inhalant allergens is the administration of injections that build up protective antibodies to specific allergens, including pollens, mold, animal dander, dust, etc. This series of allergy shots really desensitizes the immune system and helps our patients live a more normal life.

If medical and immunotherapy are not enough, we can consider the latest technology to endoscopically open up the sinuses or nasal passages.  New discoveries and therapies are constantly emerging in immunology. We will discuss all possible treatment options with you at your appointment.