How do I know what I’m allergic to?

Almost everyone is allergic to something or to the other, whether it’s the high pollen count in the spring, dust, peanuts, milk or shellfish. Some types of allergies are rare and highly specific while others, such as allergies to dust, pollen or allergic rhinitis (hay fever) are much more common.

It is not easy to determine exactly what you are allergic to without an appropriate allergy test. For example, you may find yourself sniffing every morning, but without proper testing you may not be able to confirm whether it is due to household dust or dust mites on your bed.

Allergological tests

The allergy test is the best way to find out what the exact substance you are allergic to is. The most frequently performed test is the skin puncture test which involves puncturing the patient’s skin (usually the forearm or upper arm) and placing a small concentrate of multiple allergens on it. The patient should then wait about 15 minutes, after which they should see swellings in the areas where the allergen to which they are allergic is concentrated. This test can also reveal allergies that a patient may have to a substance they have never come into contact with. For example, someone who has never come into contact with eucalyptus could be highly allergic to it.

Two other allergy tests are the intradermal and patch tests.

The intradermal test involves the injection of an allergen such as bee venom to the patient and is also used in case of hypothesis that an allergic reaction has not been shown in the skin puncture test.

The patch test is also simple in which the patient applies a “patch” containing an allergen on his body and keeps it active for about 48 hours, after which the patch is removed. If the swelling or rash is still visible after 96 hours, the dermatologist can then identify the allergen. The tests also show the severity of the allergy based on the size of the swelling or rash.

How can I treat my allergies?

Two of the most common ways to treat allergies are antihistamines and immunotherapy. Antihistamines provide relief by reducing itching, sniffling and sneezing and are used when needed and can be used as a preventive measure. Immunotherapy, on the other hand, has longer lasting effects but also needs time to have an effect. In essence, immunotherapy involves the continuous administration of the allergen to the patient until immunity is built. This can be done through injections (allergy shots) or sublingually where the allergen is administered under the patient’s tongue.

There are also many other treatments for other specific allergies such as eye itch eye drops.

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