Diagnosing Allergies

Checking if you have an allergy properly begins with a consultation with your doctor that deals with the symptoms you are having. Which doctor?
You will most likely first consult your family doctor or a primary care practitioner. Then, you may be recommended to a special doctor:

An allergist – is one whose specialty is allergies.

A dermatologist – whose expertise is skin problems.

An EENT (eyes, ear, nose and throat) specialist – who knows most about these body areas.

An immunologist – specializes in diseases and disorders in the immune system.

What happens when you go to a medical specialist?

The doctor might first do an allergy screening, asking you relevant questions and conducting a physical exam. Afterwards, your doctor would most likely administer allergy tests to assess your body’s sensitivity to some allergens.

After your appointment, the doctor might recommend you start an allergy diary. This allergy diary will help you in keeping track of the symptoms you are suffering and when they occur.

Once the specific allergen triggers have been identified, the doctor would be able determine what tests and treatment should be done to you.

Allergy screening and allergy diagnosis
Your doctor could know what allergies you have as well as allergens that cause these allergies by conducting tests. Tests used for allergy screening are steps that include taking the clinical history of the symptoms that you have, undertaking a comprehensive physical exam, and probably making you start that allergy diary we recommended above.

Clinical History

On your initial visit, the doctor will ask you questions pertaining to the clinical history of your symptoms in order to narrow down your possibilities on the wide array of allergens. The doctor would most likely ask you several questions about these symptoms. These may include:

Basic symptom assessment

– What symptoms do you have – wheezing, itching, sneezing, stomach problems, watery eyes, gas, among others?
– How often and how sever do you have these symptoms?
– Do you know if these symptoms are worse at some point of the day?
– How long do these symptoms occur?

Symptom Triggers

– Do you know if there is a specific trigger for your symptoms?
–  If you know, did you try avoiding such triggers? And how well did this avoidance work?

Family History

– Do you have any co-family members suffering from allergies?
– Do you have other health problems running in the family?

Environment

– Do you reside in a house that has a climate that is damp or there is no proper ventilation for the house to have mold?
– Do you spend time working or staying outdoors?
– What types of plant exist in the areas where you usually go?
– What type of environment are you working in?

Medication and food

– What is your usual food diet?
– What medications or drugs are you at present taking on and what drugs do you have infrequently?
– Are you at present using oral and topical corticosteroids, antihistamines, or adrenalin autoinjectors to cure your symptoms?

Health History

– Do you have other problems in your health?
– What other health problems do you have before?
– How did you treat allergy symptoms previously? Did you use over-the-counter remedies, prescribed medication or just try to avoid the problem?
– How did your treatment go?

You might want ready answers for these questions when you consult your doctor. If it is possible, come up with answers that are written to these types of questions. This would make diagnosis as easy and quick as possible.

Physical Exam
Then, your doctor might perform a comprehensive physical exam for him or her to determine other probable causes for your allergy. He or she may also ask you for some diagnostic tests such as:

– Blood tests
– Tests for pulmonary function
– Lung x-rays
– Cultures detecting infection

Allergy tests could also be done to fully assess your problem. These include:

– Skin tests. If the doctor thinks that your allergies are caused by allergens that are airborne, or from contact, he or she might perform a skin test. This kind of test is cheaper and generally is more accurate than having blood tests to evaluate your allergies.
– Blood tests. Also known as the RAST Test, the doctor will take a minute amount of your blood and check it in a testing lab.
– Food challenge or elimination tests. These tests identify if you are suffering from food allergies. The most frequent allergens are found in wheat, eggs, milk, soy, and nuts (particularly peanuts).

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