Personal and medical history. Your doctor will ask you questions to get a complete understanding of your symptoms and their possible causes. This includes about your family history, the kinds of medicines you take, and your lifestyle at home, school and work.
Physical exam. If your doctor thinks you have an allergy, they will pay close attention to your ears, eyes, nose, throat, chest and skin during the exam. This exam may include a pulmonary function test to detect how well you exhale air from your lungs. You may also need an X-ray of your lungs or sinuses.
Tests to determine your allergens. Your doctor may do a skin test, patch test or blood test. No one test alone is able to diagnose an allergy. Test results are just one of many tools available to assist your doctor in making a diagnosis.
Good allergy treatment is based on your medical history, the results of your allergy tests and how severe your symptoms are. It can include three treatment types: avoiding allergens, medicine options and/or immunotherapy (allergens given as a shot or placed under the tongue).
Nasal corticosteroids are nose sprays. They reduce swelling. Swelling causes a stuffy, runny and itchy nose. They are the most effective medicines for nasal allergies.
Antihistamines block histamine, a trigger of allergic swelling. They can calm sneezing, itching, runny nose and hives.
Mast cell stabilizers keep your body from releasing histamine. This can help with itchy, watery eyes or an itchy, runny nose.
Decongestants reduce stuffiness by shrinking swollen membranes in the nose.. Using these sprays more than three days in a row may cause the swelling and stuffiness in your nose to get worse. This can happen even after you stop using the medicine. This reaction is a rebound reaction.
Corticosteroid creams or ointments relieve itchiness and stop the spread of rashes. See your doctor if your rash does not go away after using this cream for a week.
Oral corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce swelling and stop severe allergic reactions. These medicines can cause serious side effects. Expect your doctor to carefully monitor you while taking it.
Epinephrine comes in a pre-measured and self-injectable device. It is the most important medicine to give during a life-threatening anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to food, stinging insects, latex and drugs/medicines.
Immunotherapy is a treatment option for some allergy patients. There are two common types of immunotherapy. They are allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).
Allergy shots involve giving injections of allergens in an increasing dose over time. The person becomes progressively less sensitive to that allergen. Allergy shots can work well for some people with allergies to pollen, pets, dust, bees or other stinging insects, as well as asthma. Allergy shots do not usually work well for allergies to food, medicines, feathers, or for hives or eczema.
SLIT is another way to treat certain allergies without injections. Allergists give patients small doses of an allergen under the tongue. This exposure improves tolerance to the substance and reduces symptoms. SLIT is a fairly safe and effective for the treatment of nasal allergies and asthma. Talk to your allergist if you want to learn more about SLIT.