Comprehensive Allergy Testing
Before undergoing allergy skin testing, patients should stop using corticosteroids in the area to be tested and avoid taking oral antihistamines since either may produce inaccurate results. Allergy skin tests using potential irritants, such as pollen, insect venom or animal dander, are administered into the skin.
Scratch tests are administered on the forearm. Once the targeted area has been cleaned with alcohol, a drop of each potential allergen is applied to a specific place on the forearm, marked to indicate its presence. The substance is applied where the outer layer of skin, the epidermis, has been pricked. Frequently, the scratch test administered is a T.R.U.E. TEST®, a comprehensive exam which tests for sensitivity to 29 common allergens.
The physician then examines the area for a reaction which may range from completely negative, meaning the patient has no allergy to the substance, to extreme, in which case the patient shows severe reaction to the substance, such as swelling, itching, blistering or ulceration. Once positive results have been determined, patients can take steps to avoid their triggers and prevent allergic responses from occurring.
Side Effects of Allergy Skin Testing
Although skin allergy testing is considered a safe and effective diagnostic tool, these tests do cause a small area of contact dermatitis at the site of application, and may, under certain circumstances, result in a mild version of systemic reactions. In very rare instances, skin allergy tests, usually only intradermal ones, can result in anaphylaxis, a systemic reaction during which the patient's may experience: itching, wheezing, swelling of the face or entire body, trouble breathing, and low blood pressure. Since this type of reaction can result in shock, and even death, in a short time, patients showing symptoms of anaphylaxis require emergency treatment.
Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system to a substance known as an allergen. Allergens are substances to which particular individuals have extreme sensitivity. When a person is exposed to an allergen, the body releases chemicals including histamine, which produce the allergic reaction.
Immunotherapy is the administration of small doses of the allergen causing the problem which are gradually increased to help the patient develop increased tolerance. Immunotherapy works to bolster the immune system without triggering an allergic reaction. Some of the most common allergens are pollen, dust mites, mold and animal dander.
Immunotherapy is a good option for patients who have persistent allergies for more than three months of the year, do not respond well to allergy medications, or are in danger because of their allergy. Immunotherapy can relieve allergy symptoms and help reduce the frequency of reactions.
We offer subcutaneous treatment (shots) and sublingual treatment (drops) for our patients. When you come in for your appointment, we will walk you through your specific treatment protocol.
The Immunotherapy Procedure
A course of immunotherapy typically begins with the injection of minute quantities of the allergen injected into the patient's arm once a week. Gradually, these doses are increased. In a month or two, the patient is usually receiving the optimal amount of allergen in the injection, enough to demonstrate sufficient tolerance to allow the patient limited exposure to the allergen without developing symptoms. This is referred to as a maintenance dose.
Once the maintenance dose is reached, the patient will receive the same dose with decreasing frequency. That same dose may be administered every 2 weeks for about 6 months. At that time, the period between injections is increased to about 4 weeks. Patients may be kept on a maintenance dose once a month for up to 5 years to help them retain at least partial immunity to the irritating allergens.
In some instances, immunology for allergens may be administered more intensively, reaching the maintenance dose more quickly. This variety of treatment is called cluster, or rush, immunology.