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Laura Gesicki-Wood, MD
Should I See an Allergist?
Accredited Allergy Center of Springfield

Should I See an Allergist?

For many people, allergies are bad enough that they wonder if they should see an allergist. An allergist diagnoses, treats, and manages allergy-related conditions, like allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Many people begin by treating their allergy symptoms with over-the-counter drugs. If your allergy symptoms don't improve, if the symptoms last too long, or if you don't like the side-effects, you should see a doctor.

Your body protects you from things that can make you sick, like bacteria and viruses. But, if you have allergies, this defense system works overtime. It protects you from things that don't harm most people. These things are called allergens or allergy triggers.

With nasal allergies your nose releases substances that affect the lining of your nose. This is called rhinitis. It can make your nose stuffy, itchy, or runny. You may sneeze.

Your nasal symptoms may worsen during certain seasons seasonal allergic rhinitis. Common triggers include grass, tree, and weed pollens, and molds.

If you have year-round nasal allergies, your symptoms may be triggered by indoor allergens including dust mites, mold, cockroaches, or animal dander. This is called perennial allergic rhinitis.

People with year-round nasal symptoms that aren't caused by an allergy have a condition called perennial nonallergic rhinitis.

A skin test or a blood test is used to test for allergies. Testing can let you know for certain which allergens are affecting you. Testing may reveal allergens that you didn't even realize were causing you problems. Furthermore, testing is necessary if you wish to start immunotherapy (allergy shots).

The blood test looks for certain cells that show you're allergic. But, when most people go to the allergist for the first time, they want to know right away, “What am I allergic to?” Fortunately, skin testing can usually be done on your first visit, and you may get immediate answers.

The skin prick, or scratch test, is the most common and reliable test for most allergies. This is a fairly painless procedure to lightly prick or scratch your back or forearm with a tiny amount of allergen. After 15 to 20 minutes, the spots where you are allergic will become red and swollen.

The allergist will determine whether allergies run in your family. Questions about your symptoms, what you did to treat those symptoms, and whether it worked, find the best possible treatment.

One of the best reasons to go to an allergist is to find out what allergens bother you, so you can avoid them.

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