What to expect from your allergist consultation
Many people live with allergies for years before finally deciding “enough is enough!”. That’s when it’s time to see an expert and get a robust plan in place to help you manage, or hopefully even eliminate your symptoms.
But seeing a doctor can feel intimidating and tests can be scary. So what should you expect from your first consult?
1) Your History
This part is essentially an interview, in which the doctor will explore your problems with you. He or she will ask:
- All about your allergies: The doctor will want to know what your symptoms are, where you get them, when you get them and why you think you get them: your trigger factors. Tell him or her how your allergies affect your everyday life. This is where your DIARY comes in!
- All about you: Any other medical problems you may have. In particular, do you have eczema or asthma? But also other common conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- All about your family: Do your parents, siblings or children have allergies or related conditions like asthma or eczema? Be sure you’re up to speed on what your family members are allergic to, and what kind of reactions they have.
2) Your Examination
Next, the allergist will want to take a look at you. This will involve screening for any physical signs of allergies and a general once-over to check your state of health:
- nasal congestion/polyps
- facial/lip/tongue swelling
- inflammation of the throat
- wheezy chest
3) Your Tests
The history and examination will help the allergist decide what to test for and how to test for it. There are three main kinds:
- Skin prick testing: Sounds painful, but you won’t feel a thing! This is a test for food and environmental allergens. The allergist basically “dips” a sterile needle in a pot containing the allergen to be tested and pricks the very surface of your skin. If a raised, red and itchy rash appears within 20 minutes, that suggests an allergy.
- Patch tests: Also known as “epicutaneous tests,” this is a test for contact allergy to things like fragrances, preservatives, metals… The allergist applies a little of the substance to your skin and covers it with a dressing to be worn for 48 hours. After it comes off, if there is redness, scaling or vesicles, you are most likely allergic.
- Blood tests: Many people dislike having blood taken, but it should only take a moment! The doctor will send the blood off to the lab where they will run a test looking for specific antibodies to pinpoint your allergies. The results should be back within 1-2 weeks.
4) Your care plan
Armed with the results of parts 1-3 above, your allergist will offer you advice such as:
- A list of things that you are allergic to and how to avoid them where possible. This may entail dietary restriction, practical home care tips or adapted cosmetics.
- Information on how severe your allergy is and whether you should carry an Epipen. If so, he or she will show you how to use it - they’re designed to be super simple!
- Whether you are a candidate for desensitization therapies also known as “allergy vaccines.”
- Medications to relieve symptoms such as anti-histamines, eye drops and nasal sprays.
- For skin, he or she may recommend protective barrier creams and skincare or thermal water mists suitable for your skin type.