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January 14, 2021 • read

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When is it time to see an allergist?

Almost everyone has allergies at some point in their lives. In simpler cases, over-the-counter medicine usually does the trick. In other cases, like severe food allergies or persistent hay fever, symptoms can really get in the way of daily life. If ongoing allergies are interrupting your enjoyment of life, an allergist can help

What does an allergist do?

Allergists are doctors trained to help you manage a range of conditions, including allergies, asthma, and immune disorders. They’re also sometimes referred to as immunologists. 

Allergists can diagnose and treat conditions such as:

  • Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis.
  • Irritated eyes.
  • Skin allergies.
  • Asthma.
  • Persistent coughs.
  • Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction where the body goes into shock. 
  • Chronic sinus infections.

Allergists don’t just treat surface-level symptoms. They also take a look at your lifestyle and suggest changes to your work or home environment, dietary adjustments, or prescribe medication. By getting to the root cause of your allergic reactions, they can help you manage your symptoms in a long-lasting way.

How do I know if I need to see an allergist?

If you’re constantly taking over-the-counter medication for allergy relief, it’s time to see an allergist. Most medications from the drug store are intended for short-term use. Taking them regularly for long periods of time isn’t an effective way to minimize or stop allergic reactions. 

Allergists can help you if you have:

  • Chronic sinus issues, like infections, inflammation, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing.
  • Cold symptoms that last for 14 days or longer.
  • Asthma, signs of which include shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and difficulty breathing after exercising.
  • Hay fever or seasonal allergy symptoms for several months at a time.
  • Pet allergies.
  • Several ear, sinus, or throat infections in a year.
  • Symptoms of asthma or allergies that get in the way of your daily life. 
  • Frequent asthma attacks even with medication. 

How do I know if I’m having an allergic reaction?

Allergic reactions range from mild to severe. With a mild allergic reaction, you may experience:

  • Itchy, red skin
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy throat
  • Stomach pain or nausea

An acute allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, is a serious reaction that involves:

  • Hives or itchy skin
  • Swelling of the mouth and throat
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Blue lips or skin
  • Flushed face
  • Feeling confused
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea 

If you or your family member are having an acute allergic reaction, call 911. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. 

Children can see allergists too. If your child has an allergic reaction to food or is showing signs of asthma, an allergist can help with diagnosis and treatment options. The sooner your child is diagnosed and treated, the more effectively you’ll be able to manage risk factors in their daily lives. 

What to expect at your first allergist appointment

It’s helpful to prepare in advance when you’re planning to see an allergist for the first time. Collect as much information as possible about your health history and symptoms. This information will help your allergist get a complete picture of your lifestyle and health so they can make informed recommendations. 

Consider keeping a health diary to record things like:

  • Any acute allergic reactions you’ve had in the past.
  • The types of foods you ate around the time of the reaction.
  • The symptoms you experienced during the reaction.
  • The length of time your allergic reaction lasted.
  • The medicines you normally take for allergies, including what you took if you had an acute allergic reaction.
  • Any other medications you take regularly.
  • Allergies that other members of your family have.
  • If possible, photos of your irritated skin or eyes during an allergic reaction.

During your first allergist appointment, the doctor will ask questions about your medical history and your family’s medical history. They may also have you undergo tests, such as:

  • Skin testing — an allergist places a small amount of the allergen on your skin to observe your allergic response.
  • Immunity serology — these are also called allergy blood tests. They look for levels of an antibody called IgE in your bloodstream. High IgE levels mean you’re having an allergic reaction.

Questions to ask your allergist

Your first allergist appointment is an opportunity to ask your doctor questions. Some things you may want to discuss include:

  • How serious could my allergy symptoms become?
  • What should I keep track of after our visit?
  • Will my child outgrow this allergy?
  • Can other problems develop from my allergies?
  • Will I need medication? If so, what are the side effects?
  • Will I need any special accommodations at home or at work?
  • Should I book another appointment in the near future?
  • Are there food allergy management tips or tools available? 

With the help of an allergist, it’s possible to bring your allergy symptoms under control. Your allergist can help you understand more about what triggers your allergies, and what will soothe symptoms in a lasting way.

Typical wait times to see an allergist range from 6-12 months. On Maple, you can see an allergist within days of booking an appointment. 

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