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    Allergies Health Center

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    How Are Allergies Diagnosed and Treated?

    Your doctor will ask you what allergens you might have come in contact with. He’ll also ask for your personal and family medical history to figure out what’s causing your troubles.

    He may run tests to rule out other health problems that might look like allergic reactions. He could ask you to keep track of potential triggers and your reactions for a week to help him diagnose you. After this, he’ll choose a testing method.

    Understanding Allergies

    Find out more about allergies:

    Basics

    Symptoms

    Treatment

    Prevention

    The most common test for respiratory, penicillin, insect sting, skin, and food allergies is a skin prick or scratch test. The doctor scratches a small amount of the allergen into your skin and watches for swelling, itchiness, and redness in that area. Other tests look for signs in the blood that are linked to allergies.

    Results can differ from one test or one lab to another. Your doctor can help figure out which tests are best for you and help you understand what the results mean.

    How Are Allergies Treated?

    The best thing to do is avoid the things that trigger your symptoms in the first place, but that isn’t always easy.

    Nasal steroids, available over-the-counter or by prescription, are often the first drug recommended for nasal allergies (hay fever). Your doctor might prescribe anti-inflammatory steroid drugs, like prednisone, for severe symptoms.

    Antihistamines, available over-the-counter, block the effects of chemicals your body makes that cause the allergic reactions.

    An epinephrine shot is for an emergency, when an allergic reaction becomes life-threatening. It works quickly to bring up low blood pressure and open narrowed airways.

    Allergy shots -- also called immunotherapy or allergy desensitization therapy -- may help ease attacks. You’ll get small amounts of things that trigger your symptoms, like pollen. It’ll help your body get used to that allergen. It may take a year before it really starts to work.

    What Works Best for Specific Allergies?

    Skin conditions: Atopic and contact dermatitis can be treated with a variety of anti-inflammatory steroids either applied to your skin or taken by mouth. Mild cases of hives and angioedema, a swelling that goes with them, may not need treatment. But severe cases require antihistamines, or steroid pills. Stomach medicines that have some antihistamine effect, like ranitidine, may also help.

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