Though we don’t always expect it, we can develop allergies or asthma over time. Determining if you have either of these conditions requires working with a trained and licensed allergist. But how do you know when it is time to seek a diagnosis from an allergist? Read on for the most common symptoms to consider.
Time to Make an Appointment
There are a handful of tell-tale signs that it is time for you to consult an allergist. For example, if you feel like you are always getting sick or you are frequently sneezing or coughing in the presence of a pet, you may want to seek a professional consultation. Other indicators include:
- A runny or stuffy nose, cough, or watery eyes that last for more than three months
- Frequent sinus infections, headaches, stuffy nose, or ear infections
- Snoring or trouble staying asleep
- Difficulty in carrying out day-to-day activities
- Struggling to breathe, particularly after exercise or at night
- Feeling tightness in your chest or being short of breath frequently
- Over-the-counter drugs have not provided relief
Finally, if you are dealing with health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma, or issues with your thyroid, prostate, liver, or kidney, it may not be safe to take certain over-the-counter allergy medications. In this case, it is very important to discuss with your doctor how to best treat your allergy symptoms.
What to Expect at the Allergist
When you make an appointment with an allergist to discuss your possible allergies or asthma, you can expect a standardized process from your doctor.
First, if you suspect that you may have allergies, your doctor may conduct allergy tests to figure out what allergens may or may not be involved. Confirming what substances are causing your allergies can help determine the best course of treatment.
Allergy tests are typically conducted as either skin prick or scratch tests. In these tests, the doctor will lightly prick or scratch the skin to allow a drop of the suspected allergen to be absorbed. The allergist then observes you to determine if there is any allergic reaction. At Columbia Allergy, we perform skin prick tests for our patients or, if needed, send patients out for additional lab testing.
In some cases, the allergist may also use intradermal testing, where the allergen is injected just beneath the skin. For certain other allergies, such as perfume and cosmetics, the allergist may use an adhesive patch that will test your allergic reaction over a 48-hour period.
Identifying Allergy Triggers
Once the testing is complete, the allergist will help determine what triggers worsen your allergies. This helps you understand ways to avoid allergic triggers that can make it difficult for you to breathe or cause additional symptoms. Even decreasing exposure can be helpful to control symptoms.
Developing a Treatment Plan
The final step in this process will be the creation of an allergy treatment plan. Depending on the type of allergen, this may include medications or immunotherapy. Immunotherapy consists of four techniques: allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy, oral immunotherapy, and Precision Immune Targeting, also known as intralymphatic immunotherapy.
It’s important to work with an experienced provider for each of these techniques.
- You’ll receive allergy shots every couple of weeks. Each shot contains a small amount of the allergen. Over the course of the shot regimen, the amount of allergen each shot contains will increase to help increase your body’s proper response to the trigger.
- Sublingual immunotherapy involves the use of a tablet or fluid that dissolves under your tongue. This allows allergens to enter your body faster, desensitizing your immune system over time. While allergists often use sublingual techniques for pet and dust allergies, the team at Columbia has developed new protocols that allow us to use this technique for food allergies, as well.
- Oral immunotherapy focuses on using incremental amounts of food to help food allergy sufferers recover. Under careful supervision by an allergist, you’ll gradually increase the amount of the allergic food at each appointment along with daily at-home dosing, until you reach maintenance and continue the maintenance dosing on your own at home.
- Precision Immune Targeting uses ultrasound-guided injections of your allergens directly into the lymph nodes by an interventional radiologist. By injecting directly into your lymph nodes, Precision Immune Targeting can produce faster results with fewer visits to your allergist. It’s important to note, though, that this breakthrough procedure is offered exclusively by Columbia Allergy.
If you are seeking treatment for asthma or allergies, Columbia Allergy is here to help. Our providers take a patient-focused approach that views every person as an individual with unique challenges and goals. Contact us at any of our convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho, or Washington to learn more about how we can help.
This is not medical advice. If you’re concerned that you may have allergies or asthma, please consult a medical professional.