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How to Get to the Root of your Patients’ Allergy-Like Symptoms

Allergy is a very common condition that affects millions of people who are allergic to the things that they eat, breathe or touch. The problem with many people who experience allergy-like symptoms is that they rush to taking antihistamines without confirming if they have an allergy or not and what is it that they are allergic to. Others rely on free allergy screening and home test kit results to confirm their allergies. However, there are those who know the importance of seeing a doctor for their allergy-like symptoms, and when they do that, they expect you as the doctor to provide solutions to their problems.

Start with examination

Allergy –like symptoms can be caused by an allergy, several allergies or other things that are not related to allergies at all. As a doctor, you should be able to confirm an allergy suspicion, determine the responsible allergens or rule out allergy and the first thing your patient needs is not an allergy test but a doctor’s examination. The reason against relying on allergy tests alone is the risk of getting a ‘false positive’ result especially with free screening services offered by drugstores and supermarkets and home allergy testing kits. Your examination together with the medical history of your patient should confirm the suspicion of an allergy and also whether to proceed with an allergy test or not.

Making an accurate allergy diagnosis based on medical history, clinical observations and antibody testing is crucial because any wrong test can mean a waste of money and unnecessary lifestyle changes for your patient whose condition is far away from being an allergy plus the problem will not be solved in the long run.

If you suspect food allergies, you should recommend an elimination diet by identifying suspected foods causing the allergy symptoms and supervising it over a period. For the confirmation of other allergies, skin and blood allergy tests should be done.

Refer to an allergist to perform an allergy test

Doing allergy tests is usually done to know which substances are responsible for allergy symptoms. You can order either skin or blood allergy test depending on the nature of the symptoms.

Skin allergy test

If your patient exhibits allergy symptoms like the ones associated with food allergies, allergic rhinitis, asthma, skin rashes, angioedema, hives, venom and penicillin and related drugs allergy, skin tests may be done either by a prick test or intradermal skin test for venom and penicillin allergy tests. Before a skin test, you will need to prepare your patient in advance concerning the medicines that should not be taken like antihistamines because they influence the results of the allergy skin tests. Skin tests usually involve placing several suspected allergens on the skin and then the skin is pricked for the allergen to go under the skin. The skin is then watched for reaction signs for about 15-20 minutes.

Blood allergy tests

You should be able to order an allergy blood test if your patient is using antihistamines, has a severe skin condition, has a heart condition and unable to tolerate skin scratches or needles as in children. In allergy blood tests, either an ELISA test which measures the quantity of allergen-specific antibodies (IgE) in your blood or RAST test which looks for allergen-specific antibodies to identify the allergen is used.

Whatever the type of allergy test that you do on your patient, it should help you in knowing the root cause of allergy symptoms that your patient is experiencing. A negative result rules out allergy while a positive result means that the patient is allergic to that particular substance.

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