How to Know If Your Symptoms Are Bad Enough to See an Allergist
So, in allergy season, you sneeze and rub your eyes. Who is not? Allergies are so common that many of us can manage our symptoms with over-the-counter medications and avoidance strategies, such as spending less time outdoors on pollen-high days. But when is the allergy so severe that you should see a specialist?
First, if you visit your primary care doctor for regular checkups, you can always ask him about your allergies. Let them know how serious your symptoms are and how much they affect your life, and they will help you understand if a referral to an allergist makes sense. (They may also recommend a specific person to visit.)
But if you’re trying to decide on your own, here are a few signs that it might be helpful for you to see a professional.
You don’t know what you’re allergic to
One of the most important things an allergist can do that you can’t do on your own is test your reaction to dozens of common allergens at once. It’s not the same as one of those mail-order blood tests that are practically useless . Instead, allergy testing is usually done with a skin prick test. The health worker will draw a small grid on your arm or back, apply a small amount of the substance to each place, and pierce the skin. There are test kits for pollen, pet dander, and other common allergens. If you are allergic to one of the components of the test, you will have a skin reaction.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) , other types of legitimate allergy tests include supervised provocative tests, where you ingest a small amount of suspicious food, and IgE blood tests (not mail-related). – order tests for IgG).
For skin tests, you will receive results immediately (test takes about 20 minutes). The allergist can then advise you on what you should do if you have an identified allergy – for example, if you need to carry an Epi-Pen with you or if you should use certain prescription or over-the-counter medications, they will discuss this with you.
They can also provide other strategies to help you avoid and manage allergens in your life. For example, my allergist recommended pillowcases for pillows and mattresses as part of a strategy to deal with my dust mite allergy. I never thought these covers could be so helpful, but I finally shelled out for them based on her recommendation and my symptoms improved a lot .
You have asthma too and it’s getting worse
Allergists also specialize in asthma. Both conditions are linked to the immune system, and people with asthma are often prone to allergies. Consider visiting a specialist if you are experiencing signs of severe asthma, whether or not they occur along with allergies. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) defines them as :
- Wheezing or coughing, especially at night or after exercise
- Trying to catch my breath
- Feeling of tightness in the chest or shortness of breath
Difficulty breathing is bad for you regardless of the cause, and asthma symptoms can overlap with those of other heart and lung conditions. If you can’t get to an allergist soon, tell any doctor you can see.
Your allergies or asthma seriously affect your daily life
If you blow your nose occasionally during pollen season, you probably don’t need professional help. But the ACAAI recommends that you consult someone about your allergy if:
- Your seasonal allergies last for months of the year
- Over-the-counter drugs are not enough to control allergies
- Over-the-counter medications control your allergies, but only when you take enough to make you constantly feel sleepy or otherwise experience unacceptable side effects.
- Your allergies are causing chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion, or difficulty breathing.
- Your asthma or allergies seriously affect your daily life.
If you’ve seen an allergist before, but your symptoms have gotten worse since then, it’s worth going back. For example, if you are already on asthma medication but have frequent asthma attacks, this is a sign that you need to see someone.