Wondering if your nagging cold is actually an allergy? Or what about your new skin cream that made your hands break out? Distinguishing an allergy from a non-allergic condition is not always a clear-cut task. But knowing the difference can sometimes help you solve what's ailing you, which in turn could mean faster relief.
Mary Fields knows just how difficult pinpointing an allergy can be. The 64-year-old Bronx resident tells WebMD she was convinced her frequent hives were caused by something in...
Some questions: Your doctor will want details about the medicines you've been using, your symptoms, and your health.
Blood tests: If you’ve had a serious skin reaction, your doctor may ask for these to check how your organs are working and to see if there are any other signs of an allergic reaction.
Other tests: Depending on your case, your doctor may need to see some other things, like a chest X-ray.
Treatment: If your symptoms are severe, your doctor will give you medicine to help control the reaction.
Diagnosing and Managing a Drug Allergy
After the exam, your doctor may suggest:
Switching drugs: If your doctor thinks you are allergic to a drug, he will have you stop using that drug and may switch you to a different one.
Allergy testing: If there's any doubt if you are truly allergic, he may want you to have more tests. Keep in mind that the tests don’t work for all drugs.
Trying to reduce your reaction: If switching drugs isn't an option -- and you must keep taking a drug for your health -- your doctor may suggest something called desensitization.
You would get a small dose of the drug and then it would be raised gradually. The slow increase may get your body more used to the drug and lower your risk of an allergic reaction. It’s done in the hospital or doctor’s office.
Desensitization is not a cure. It’s only temporary. It doesn't work for everyone and it has risks. But it's one way for you to keep getting a medicine you need.
If you have an allergy, your doctor will advise you on how to protect yourself. Some good first steps include: