If you think you have allergies, think about seeing a doctor who can tell you whether you do or not. An allergist is an MD who specializes in treating allergic conditions. An allergist can tell you what you’re allergic to and how to avoid your triggers.
You may want to make an appointment if:
- You have symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, cough, or watery eyes that last for more than 3 months and make it hard for you to work or sleep.
- You’ve tried over-the-counter drugs and still need more relief.
- You get a lot of sinus infections, headaches, stuffy nose, or ear infections.
- You snore or have trouble staying asleep.
- You have other health problems such as heart disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure, enlarged prostate, liver disease, or kidney disease. If you do, it may not be safe to treat allergies on your own with over-the-counter drugs. Talk to your doctor before you take them.
Children and older people with allergies should always see a doctor before treatment starts.
What Will an Allergist Do?
Confirm you have allergies. Only a doctor can tell you for sure whether you have an allergy. You may have something else, such as an infection. When you know what you have, you can get the right treatment.
Find your triggers. If you know what you’re allergic to and what things trigger a reaction, you can take steps to avoid those things. An allergist will give you tests to help you identify specifically what triggers your allergies.
Make a treatment plan. A treatment plan will help you know what you need to do. It should include what kind of medicine to take and when to take it, what things you need to avoid because of your allergies, and how to be ready for and what to do if you have a serious allergic reaction.
Check that you have the right medicine. Over-the-counter drugs can often help with allergies. Some people, though, also need prescription medicine to handle the symptoms. Your doctor can advise you about your medicines and make sure you have the prescriptions you need.
Control your symptoms. Your doctor can help you tame your runny nose and itchy eyes and even stop an allergic reaction before it starts.
Questions the Doctor May Have
Be prepared to tell the allergist about your symptoms and your lifestyle. They may want to know:
- What kinds of symptoms do you have?
- How long have you had them?
- When your symptoms happen, how long do they last?
- Do your symptoms come and go throughout the year, or do they last year-round?
- Do your symptoms hit when you’re outdoors, or indoors -- like when you clean your home?
- Do they get worse when you’re around pets? Do you have any pets?
- Do you smoke? Does anyone in your family smoke?
- Do your symptoms keep you from doing things or from sleeping at night?
- What makes your symptoms better? What types of treatments have you tried?
- What allergy drugs are you taking now? Do they help?
- What other medications are you taking, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements?
- What kind of heating system do you have? Do you have central air conditioning?
- Do you have any other health conditions, like asthma or high blood pressure?
- Do you have problems with your sense of smell or taste?
- Do you get better on the weekend and worse when you go back to work?
Questions You May Have
You get to ask questions, too. Start with these.
- What’s causing my allergies?
- Could I become allergic to other things?
- What symptoms should I be concerned about? When should I call your office?
- What allergy medications or other treatments are available? What are the benefits and side effects of each?
- Will I need allergy shots?
- Should I take medicine all the time or only when my symptoms get worse?
- Should I stop outdoor exercise?
- What types of plants are best to put in my yard?
- What can I do around my home to get fewer symptoms?
- What can I do to have fewer symptoms when I go outside?
- How can I tell the difference between allergies and a cold or the flu?
- Will changing my diet help?
- How often should I come in for follow-up appointments?