Allergy: Tests and Treatment
Allergy testing is needed to determine whether the symptoms are due to an actual allergy or caused by any other problems. For example, eating contaminated food (food poisoning) may cause symptoms similar to food allergies. Some medications (such as aspirin and ampicillin) can produce non-allergic reactions, including rashes. A running nose or cough may actually be due to an infection.
Skin testing is the most common method of allergy testing.
One type of skin testing is the prick test. It involves placing a small amount of the suspected allergy-causing substances on the skin, and then slightly pricking the area so that the substance moves under the skin. The skin is closely watched for signs of a reaction, which include swelling and redness. Skin testing may be an option for some young children and infants. Other types of skin tests include patch testing and intradermal testing.
Blood tests can measure the levels of specific allergy-related substances, especially one called immunoglobulin E (IgE). A complete blood count (CBC), specifically the eosinophil white blood cell count, may also help reveal allergies.
In some cases, the doctor may tell you to avoid certain items to see if you get better, or to use suspected items to see if you feel worse. This is called “use or elimination testing.” This is often used to check for food or medication allergies.
Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) require treatment with a medicine called epinephrine, which can be life saving when it is given immediately .
The best way to reduce symptoms is to try and avoid what causes your allergies in the first place. This is especially important for food and drug allergies.
There are several types of medications available to prevent and treat allergies. The medicine recommended depends on the type and severity of the symptoms, age, and overall health.
Specific illnesses that are caused by allergies (such as asthma, hay fever, and eczema) may require other treatments.
Medications that can be used to treat allergies include:
ANTIHISTAMINES, CORTICOSTEROIDS and DECONGESTANTS
Other medicines include Leukotriene inhibitors that specifically block the substances that trigger allergies. Zafirlukast (Accolate) and montelukast (Singulair) are approved for those with asthma and indoor and outdoor allergies.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are occasionally recommended if the allergencannot be avoided and symptoms are hard to control. Allergy shots keep the body from over-reacting to the allergen.