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Preparing for Your Allergy Test: 7 Things You Need to Know Before Seeing Your Royal Oak ENT Specialist

More than 100 million Americans struggle with allergies every year -- making it the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. They come in a variety of forms, including food allergies, skin allergies, indoor/outdoor allergies, seasonal allergies, drug allergies, and more.

Allergies are everywhere, but what are they?

An allergic reaction is your immune system's abnormal reaction to a foreign substance, also known as an allergen-- usually one that doesn't bother most other people. The most common symptoms of an allergy include coughing, sneezing, hives, rashes, itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a scratchy throat.

With so many people suffering from these conditions, you'd think diagnosis and treatment would be simple. Unfortunately, it's more involved than you might think -- especially in the Midwest, where pollens, mold spores, fungi, and air pollution run rampant.

But don't worry -- that's where we come in.

Here at The Rontal Clinic, we've been helping the Royal Oak community overcome allergies for several decades now -- and we're showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. One of the first things we do to determine a course of treatment is perform an allergy test -- the key to understanding the severity and cause of your allergies.

Allergy testing is a vital process that can improve quality of life for countless individuals. This medical evaluation identifies specific allergens that trigger adverse immune responses in a patient. To ensure our patients know what they're getting themselves into, we're going to teach you seven things you need to know before your visit.

Let's get started!

1. You Need an Allergist or ENT Specializing in Allergies

Of all the allergy testing facts we'll share today, the most important one is that you need an allergist or an ENT specializing in allergies for proper testing and diagnosis.

While a GP (general practitioner) may be able to initially diagnose you with possible allergies, it takes testing to find the specific allergens plaguing you and specialized treatment to manage your condition. Only an allergist or ENT with specialized training can do that effectively.

You can call on us for that -- we'll be glad to help!

Consulting an ENT for allergy testing leverages their specialized knowledge and access to advanced diagnostics. This helps identify the root causes of allergies and map out an effective management plan. Their expertise and comprehensive approach are invaluable.

2. Allergy Testing Begins with a Thorough Exam

Before any allergy testing begins, your allergist will conduct a comprehensive medical exam. This allows them to learn about your medical history, any medications you take, and the symptoms you've experienced that make you suspect an allergy.

Only with this crucial background information can the allergist decide which allergy tests are most appropriate for you.

The exam lays the groundwork so allergy testing can provide real answers.

Allergy testing is like detective work - your allergist needs those first clues from the exam before determining how to uncover the source of your allergic reactions. With your medical history in hand, the allergist has the insights they need to strategically narrow down potential triggers and get to the root cause of your suffering.

3. Why Allergy Tests are Done

Allergy tests are done to diagnose a variety of allergy-related health issues. These tests help your specialist understand exactly what triggers are causing your particular condition, and they're commonly used to diagnose allergic problems such as: 

  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Environmental allergies including pollens, molds, and animal dander
  • Allergic asthma
  • Dermatitis (eczema)
  • Food allergies
  • Penicillin allergy
  • Bee venom allergy

Allergy testing illuminates the environmental factors that may be compromising health, empowering patients with knowledge to evade allergens and pursue treatments. For these reasons, thorough allergy testing is a critical tool for regaining wellness.

4. Types of Allergy Tests

There are three primary types of allergy tests - the skin prick test, intradermal test, and patch test.

Skin prick test. This test involves pricking the skin with diluted allergen extracts to see if a reaction occurs. It's quick and minimally invasive. A positive reaction results in a raised, itchy bump on the skin.

Intradermal test. This test injects allergen extracts into the skin's surface layers using a thin needle. It's more sensitive than a skin prick test, but also more time consuming. A positive reaction causes a raised, red, itchy bump.

Patch test. Small amounts of suspected allergens are taped onto the skin for 48 hours. If a rash develops, that indicates an allergy. Patch tests take longer but provide more definitive results.

While no test is perfect, these three options can help uncover the source of allergy symptoms. Knowing the offender is key to proper treatment and relief. So consider getting tested if your allergies are making you miserable. Identifying the culprit can bring welcome changes like clearer sinuses and calmer skin.

5. Who Can Have an Allergy Test

All three variations of allergy tests are generally safe for adults and children of all ages, including infants. However, certain individuals shouldn't have these allergy tests performed. This is why a thorough initial exam is so important.

Your doctor may advise against allergy testing if: 

  • You've ever had a severe allergic reaction. You may be so sensitive that even the minute amount of allergens used in skin tests could cause anaphylaxis.
  • You take medications that could interfere with test results. Antihistamines, some antidepressants, and some heartburn medications may interfere with your test results.
  • You have certain skin conditions such as severe eczema or psoriasis that affect large areas of the skin on your arms and back where allergy tests are usually performed.

The decision to pursue allergy testing should be made carefully with your allergist. They can help determine if testing is likely to provide meaningful, actionable information that can improve your health and quality of life. If testing would pose too great a medical risk or is unlikely to explain your symptoms, it may be wiser to focus on symptom management instead.

6. How Allergy Tests Work

Whether your allergy ENT uses the skin prick, intradermal, or patch test, the procedure is generally the same.

Specialists use these methods  to detect antibodies signaling your immune system is on high alert. Tiny amounts of suspected allergens, from pollen to penicillin, are introduced to assess your sensitivity.

The severity of the reaction indicates the severity of your allergy to that substance.

Positive results help build a profile of your hypersensitive responses, arming your allergist with crucial data to guide diagnosis and treatment. Allergy testing unravels the clues to solve the medical mystery of what makes you sneeze and wheeze. Understanding the science empowers patients to take control of allergies.

7. How Allergy Tests Feel

Allergy tests are specifically designed to cause an allergic reaction to a specific area of the skin, and this is usually done with a needle. That means that there will be some discomfort during and after the test. However, this discomfort is irritating more than actually painful.

During the test and for a short period after the test, you may experience symptoms such as: 

  • Redness in the testing area
  • Itchiness in the testing area
  • A small amount of swelling where the skin was pricked or injected
  • A stuffy nose or red, watery eyes, depending on the severity of your allergy

Though the prick test can cause some temporary irritation, the information it provides about your allergies makes it worthwhile for most people. Knowing exactly what you're allergic to is the first step in managing symptoms and living well. With the insight from allergy testing, you and your doctor can make informed choices about medications, environmental changes, and other therapies.

The Rontal Clinic: Experience the Joy of Allergy-Free Living

Are your allergies starting to get in your way of living a happy, healthy, and normal life? Do you need help managing your allergies or overcoming your allergy symptoms? If you answered 'yes' to either of these questions, then you've come to the right place -- The Rontal Clinic would be honored to help you!

As a family ENT in Royal Oak, MI, we've been treating allergy-related issues for years -- and we can help you, too. 

If you've been suffering from allergic symptoms like itching, hives, rashes, water eyes, stuffy nose, or even asthma, schedule an appointment with us -- you can reach us at (248) 737-4030.

Our friendly team will walk you through the allergy testing process, identify your specific allergens, and design a course of treatment to help you live a better life with fewer symptoms.