FAQs with the Allergy Nurse

What are allergies?

Allergies are the result of a hyperactive response to an otherwise harmless substance (allergen). Numerous biochemical reactions cause the symptoms that occur.

What are the most common allergy symptoms?

Some of the most common symptoms include: runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, recurrent ear infections, headaches, sinus infections and asthma, hives, and skin conditions.

How do I know if my symptoms are allergies or symptoms of a virus or bacteria?

Symptoms caused by viruses or bacteria are often similar to those caused by allergens.  Typically allergy symptoms will last past the 10-14 day period that illnesses last, and may be seasonal in nature. A fever generally will not accompany allergy symptoms.

How can I get tested for allergies?

You will first want to see one of our physicians. If your history, symptoms, and clinical presentation suggest allergies may be present, you will then be scheduled for allergy testing in our office.

What does allergy testing involve?

First of all, you will be asked to stop taking any anti-histamine medications for 1 week prior to your scheduled test. There may be other medications that you will be asked to stop as well. If previous testing has not been done, an allergy screen may be done first. This tests for 14 of the most common environmental allergens. This is done on the inside of the forearm. If you react to any of the allergens on the screen, further testing may be performed on your upper arms with small intradermal injections. Both tests combined take approximately 2 hours to perform, and are relatively painless. You may experience some mild stinging and/or itching on your arms.

Who performs the allergy testing?

A physician is always in the building and available while testing is being done. The testing is performed by our allergy nurse who has been trained in testing, and is certified to treat any symptoms or side effects that may occur during testing.

What are the risks associated with allergy testing?

The tests we use are very safe. Caution is always used while performing the tests, and our patients are continuously monitored and observed for adverse symptoms such as generalized itching, fluching, facial swelling, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. These are rare.

What treatment options are available for allergies?

Our physicians will determine the best treatment for you based on your history, your physical exam, and test results obtained. For some people, allergy medications and environmental controls done at home are all that is needed. For others, Immunotherapy (allergy shots) or Subligual therapy (drops under the tongue) are the best options.

What are the differences between traditional immunotherapy and
sublingual therapy?

Traditional immunotherapy involves weekly shots done in an office. The duration of treatment is typically 3-5 years. Sublingual therapy is a shorter treatment regimen that is done at home but on a daily basis. The drops are held under the tongue and then swallowed.  Traditional testing is performed prior to either treatment option being initiated.

What are the risks associated with either treatment?

Both treatments are very safe when done with caution. Traditional immunotherapy shots have a risk of local reactions at the injection site, although this in not common. Patients are observed in the office for 20 minutes following their shots to watch for systemic-type reactions. These are also rare, but could include facial flushing, generalized itching, facial swelling, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, swelling of the throat. There have been no documented adverse reactions with sublingual therapy, but caution must be used with them as well.

How does insurance cover allergy testing and treatment?

All insurance policies are different and subject to deductibles. We encourage patients to check with their insurance company and find out what their particular insurance plan covers.  Most policies cover a percentage of the costs.