Allergies are caused by allergens (pollens, weeds, chemical exposures, etc.) that sometimes stimulate the immune system to react, leading to symptoms like watery or itchy eyes, headaches, sneezing, nasal congestion or runny nose and a sore throat. Allergic substances range from environmental exposures to chemical pollutants. Even tobacco exposure can contribute to nasal congestion. To treat allergies, most people need to reduce exposure to the allergen and/or take medications. Most medications including antihistamines, nasal decongestants or steroid sprays can be very effective in controlling the allergy symptoms. In some cases, allergy shots or drops (immunotherapy) may be needed to build up the body’s immune response to the allergen over time.
Click here to learn more about immunotherapy and treating your allergies.
Peak ENT offers testing both for inhalant allergens and food allergens.
For inhalant allergies, the most common method of testing we perform is known as skin prick testing. Allergen extracts are introduced through very tiny and superficial pricks in the skin, with minimal discomfort. The level of reactivity is then directly measured by the size of the skin welt that occurs at each test site. Most commonly, this is performed on the patient’s back. Our skin prick panel tests for 70 common environmental allergens including grasses, trees, weeds, molds and fungus, dust and animal dander. Certain medications need to be avoided prior to skin testing. You should receive a list of medications to avoid when you schedule testing. This list can also be found here: Allergy Packet.
Certain patients, especially those with poorly controlled asthma, those who have had a previous severe reaction to skin testing and those who are unable to discontinue any of the medications listed, may undergo allergy testing via a blood test. This is an indirect test in that it measures antibodies in the blood rather than a direct reaction to the allergen, but it is a useful alternative to skin testing.
Food allergy testing is conducted via a blood test. We have various panels available to test for both IgE-mediated food allergies as well as IgG-mediated food sensitivities.
What are the benefits of allergy testing?
Allergy Testing for inhalant allergies helps guide treatment in several ways.
– For many patients, it simply helps determine to what degree allergies may be playing a role in their symptoms. A remarkably negative allergy test in the face of significant symptoms can still be useful in that it directs additional testing and treatments toward other potential causes of these symptoms.
– Information about what substances are triggering a patient’s allergy symptoms can help the patient anticipate situations and seasons that may be especially bothersome. Efforts can then be made to avoid these allergens and medication can be started prior to times of high exposure as a prophylactic measure.
– Finally, the results of allergy testing guide individualized immunotherapy, which can desensitize a patient to the allergens and effectively cure the allergies.