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How do you know when it’s time to see an Allergist?

How do you know if it’s time to see an allergist? First of all, let’s talk about what an allergist is. An allergist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and other allergic diseases. The allergist is specially trained to identify the factors that trigger asthma or allergies. Allergist’s help people treat or prevent their allergy problems.

If you are having either seasonal allergies or allergies that last year round that are not being managed by over the counter medication, you should see an allergist. Some examples of over the counter allergy medication includes Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, Benadryl and some nasal sprays.

Over the counter medications:
There are lot of options to choose from when it comes to over the counter allergy medication. Zyrtec and Claritin are two of the most common oral allergy medications. Either of those can be taken once daily, though Zyrtec can cause some drowsiness. Another popular medication is Flonase, Nasacort, or Rhinocort which are steroid nasal sprays. These are safe and effective ways to treat mild allergy symptoms. However, if using an over the counter medication is not helping, you should set up an appointment with an allergist to get more help with your symptoms.

Symptoms of seasonal allergies:
You may have seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis if you have any of the following symptoms;
• sneezing
• runny nose
• stuffy nose
• itchy nose
• coughing
• sore or scratchy throat
• itchy and watery eyes
• dark under-eye circles
• frequent headaches
• eczema-type symptoms, such as having extremely dry, itchy skin that often blisters
• hives, which are red, sometimes itchy, bumps on the skin
• excessive fatigue

What does a visit to your allergist consist of?
When you visit an allergist, they will talk to you and get a thorough History and Physical. Your doctor will probably do some skin testing during your visit. Your allergist may choose to do either skin prick testing (most common) or Intradermal testing. Here is how both types of tests are administered:
 Prick/puncture. A diluted allergen is applied with a prick or a puncture on the surface of the skin.
 Intradermal. Using a very thin needle, a diluted allergen is injected immediately below the skin surface.
After either type of test, the area of the skin is observed for about 15 minutes to see if a reaction develops. The “wheal”—a raised, red, itchy bump and surrounding “flare”—indicates the presence of the allergy antibody when the person is exposed to specific allergens. The larger the wheal and flare, the greater the sensitivity.
After you skin test, you and your doctor will come up with a plan on how to best treat your allergies. They may recommend treatment with medications alone or in conjunction with immunotherapy or allergy shots.

Immunotherapy:
Allergy shots are injections you receive at regular intervals over a period of approximately three to five years to stop or reduce allergy attacks. Allergy shots are a form of treatment called immunotherapy. Each allergy shot contains a tiny amount of the specific substance or substances that trigger your allergic reactions. These are called allergens. Allergy shots contain just enough allergens to stimulate your immune system — but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction.
Over time, your doctor increases the dose of allergens in each of your allergy shots. This helps get your body used to the allergens (desensitization). Your immune system builds up a tolerance to the allergens, causing your allergy symptoms to diminish over time.

References
http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/allergy-shots/basics/definition/prc-20014493
http://acaai.org/allergies/treatment/allergy-testing/skin-test

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