There's two ways to test for allergies- the most reliable, the
least expensive, and the most painless way is skin testing.
We use a tray of allergens that includes both indoor and outdoor allergens.
We will usually place about anywhere from 20-70
tests and that involves slightly pressing - usually
it's a plastic device on the arm or back and with
a small amount of allergen liquid on the tip.
If you have allergies to the specific allergen, then the
area that was tested will start to itch, turn red and swell.
In order to have skin testing, you should not take an
antihistamine for at least 3-7 days prior to the skin test.
Blood testing is another alternative for patients
who may not be able to stop taking antihistamines
or patients who may have a skin condition that causes skin tests to be unable to read.
With a blood test, we're actually looking for
an IGE antibody, which is the antibody that
causes an allergic reaction. And if you test
positive, then we can recommend allergy shots.
They're the oldest, most time-tested way to treat allergies. And
insurance companies pretty much universally will cover them.
The medical term for allergy shots is immunotherapy, because the shots actually alter
the immune system so that you won't react to the allergen like you used to do.
Allergy shots contain the actual allergen to which you are
allergic- we have very small quantities of allergen in the
shots initially, and then we build up to a stronger dose
also known as the maintenance or effective dose of allergen.
The other substances contained in the shot is
simply salt water and preservative. So there's
no drug or medication in the shots at all, it's
kind of a natural way to cure your allergies.
Allergy shots are given in the arm, they're actually just
given into the skin- they don't actually go as far as the
muscle, so you would not have the soreness and pain that you
would get from a typical vaccination like with a flu shot.
Once a patient starts allergy shots, they're in what
we call the build-up phase. And during the build-up
phase, they receive shots once a week for 2-6 months,
depending on the schedule that the patient chooses.
After that, then they reach the maintenance phase in which they receive
shots every 2-4 weeks for a total of 3-5 years and then we stop.
And most patients will have continued improvement, perhaps lifelong
improvement, or complete elimination of their allergy symptoms.
The most common side effect from allergy shots is some swelling, itching,
redness at the site of the shot, which may persist for a day or two.
Anaphylactic reactions to allergy shots are rare, but they do occur.
An anaphylactic reaction is an allergic reaction that's severe
or life-threatening, or involves two or more organ systems.
That's why, after a patient receives a shot, it's recommended
that they wait for 30 minutes in the doctor's office.
In most cases they are successfully treated with epinephrine.
The only way to permanently treat your allergies is to take allergy shots
So while medications, can treat your symptoms,
allergy shots can prevent the symptoms.