Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on August 30, 2012

Sources

Stanley Fineman, MD, Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. Karen DeMuth, MD, Allergist, Emory Children’s Center.

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Video Transcript

Skip Sparks: I got out of the car—the symptoms came back walking from the car into the building. Was in the building for about two hours and the symptoms went away again.

Narrator: Like many allergy sufferers, Skip Sparks noticed that his symptoms come-and-go under some very specific conditions.

Skip Sparks: It was really neat to find out that it was the grasses on the highways that was causing a lot of the problem.

Narrator: Contact with common irritants like pollen, grasses, animals, dust mites, mold—even cockroaches can trigger a bad day for someone with a respiratory allergy. Experts urge those who suspect they're allergic to find out for sure.

Stanley Fineman, MD: Oh I would recommend anybody who has respiratory symptoms that they suspect is from an allergen that they keep a mental note— maybe even keep a diary of what's triggering them in terms of what kind of exposure is causing their symptoms.

Narrator: Coming armed with suspicions of what causes your eyes to water or itch and your sinuses to drip and swell is valuable information to give your allergist when you're being evaluated.

Skip Sparks: Well they'll swell up over a period of time.

Stanley Fineman, MD: If a patient can be observant of themselves and of their own symptoms it always helps the doctor.

: You can definitely see the positive reactions like this.

Narrator: Start by asking yourself some basic questions about when your symptoms flare up.

Karen DeMuth, MD: Is it always in the spring? Is it always in the fall? Is it always when you're over at your neighbor's house and there's a cat?

Narrator: The most likely triggers using a common skin-allergy test—an effective method of finding out exactly what sparks your allergic reaction.

Karen DeMuth, MD: We have extracts to a wide variety of different trees and grasses and pollens…we have a wide variety of stuff we can test for. And if somebody thinks they're allergic to something that we don't have an extract, we learn in fellowship how to make extracts to those sorts of things if it's not commercially available.

Narrator: Knowing what you're up against is critical in formulating a treatment but…

Stanley Fineman, MD: The first line is really avoiding the thing that you're allergic to.

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.