When your immune system overreacts to a substance you touched, inhaled or ate, that is an allergy.
Your body’s immune system is your body’s defense against foreign invaders. If you have an allergy to pollen, for example, your body’s immune system views pollen as an invader or allergen.
The immune system overreacts by producing antibodies (Immunoglobulin E or IgE) which it sends to cells to release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. Reactions can range from sneezing and sniffling to a severe life-threatening response called anaphylaxis.
How does Allergy & Asthma Consultants determine which allergens are responsible for your symptoms?
We start by taking a complete medical history, a physical examination, then perform allergy testing. Allergy testing helps us identify the specific allergens causing your symptoms. Knowing what specific allergens are causing your allergic reaction will help you eliminate contact with that allergen. If we determine that you are allergic to dust mites, but not pet dander, you can take steps to eliminate the dust mites and avoid having to limit contact with a family pet.
Once your allergens are properly diagnosed, then treated and managed by our award-winning doctors, you will often feel much better quickly.
Our allergists are internists or pediatricians with at least two additional years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma and immunologic disorders. Each of our doctors has more than 25 years experience in this specialty practice.
When Should You Consider Allergy Testing?
Allergy testing performed by our staff is generally safe and effective for adults and for children of any age. The allergen extracts or vaccines we use in allergy tests meeting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.
Symptoms for which you should consider allergy testing include:
- Anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis) is a serious allergic overreaction that affects many parts of the body simultaneously.
- Respiratory: Itchy throat, nose or eyes; nasal congestion, chest congestion, cough, wheezing, watery eyes, or runny nose
- Skin: Hives, itchiness, or eczema
- Abdominal: consistent diarrhea, cramping or vomiting after eating certain foods
- Stinging Insects: severe reaction (beyond simple swelling and redness at the site of the sting) such as trouble breathing, excessive swelling, or numbness.
Although your primary care physician can certainly perform these tests, we recommend they be performed by one of our trained and experienced allergists to achieve the quickest relief.
Types of Allergy Tests
Allergens affect each person in a different way. After consulting with you on medical history and physical exam, our allergists will determine which test type is most appropriate for you.
- Blood Tests: Our staff will draw blood, then send the samples to the lab for testing. We use IgE blood tests when skin tests won’t work or might be unsafe. If you have a skin condition that might interfere with skin testing, or you are taking certain medications, we’ll elect for blood tests instead.
- IgE Skin Tests: In this test, a small amount of certain common allergens are inserted into your skin by making a small indentation or “prick” on the surface of your skin. This is the most common test and is relatively painless and provides almost immediate results.
We gauge the level of allergy to those substances by the amount of swelling and redness at each prick site. For example, if you’re allergic to pet dander but not to ragweed, only the pet dander site will display a reaction.
One of the best parts of skin testing is that reactions occur within about 20 minutes, so you won’t have to wait long to find out what is causing your allergy symptoms. Generally, you won’t experience other symptoms besides the small hives at the test site, which tend to disappear within 30 minutes.
Sometimes, if your allergist suspects you might have a specific allergy, he may use a more sensitive intradermal test in which a small amount of allergen is injected into the skins.
We perform the tests in our offices to ensure proper interpretation and to minimize the risk of any unusual side effects.
- Challenge Tests: When your allergist suspects a potential food or medication allergy, he may perform a challenge test. In this test, a small amount of an allergen is inhaled or taken by mouth. It is extremely important that this type of test be supervised by a doctor with specialized experience and training, such as one of our board-certified allergists.
Tests You Should Avoid: Certain allergy tests that we consider ineffective, or may lead to inappropriate diagnosis or treatment should be avoided. These include:
- Home testing
- Allergy testing or screening done in supermarkets or drug stores
- Applied kinesiology, or testing muscle strength or weakness
- Provocative neutralization testing
- Rinkel skin titration method
- Cytotoxicity testing for food allergy
- Sublingual provocation
- Immunoglobulin G (IgG) testing for food allergy
Improve Your Quality of Life Quickly
Allergy testing by one of our board-certified, award-winning allergists allows you to determine precisely which allergens are contributing to your allergy symptoms. Once we know exactly what you are allergic to, we will work with you to develop a treatment plan to reduce or eliminate your allergy symptoms.
Allergists are internists or pediatricians with a minimum of two additional years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, immune deficiencies and other immunologic diseases. Our allergists are board-certified with more than 25 years experience in this specialty.
If you think your symptoms might be caused by an allergy, we recommend you schedule an appointment to see one of our allergists. We offer same-day appointments, five convenient locations and the Atlanta area’s best allergy doctors.