1 + 2 + 3 AL­LERGY PLAN

Good Health (Australia) - - Be Informed -

If you’re not get­ting good symp­tom re­lief with over-the-counter medicines, you can’t work out what’s caus­ing the prob­lem, or you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a se­vere re­ac­tion, it’s time to get a di­ag­no­sis.

DOC­TOR KNOWS BEST

Still strug­gling with symp­toms? Then it’s time to see your doc­tor who can re­fer you for al­lergy test­ing at a spe­cial­ist clinic and help tai­lor treat­ment to your needs.

KEEP A RECORD

Be­fore you see your doc­tor, start keep­ing a record of your symp­toms, not­ing when they oc­cur and what, if any­thing, seems to help. The fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion may be use­ful to your GP: » Do your symp­toms oc­cur when you are in the house as well as out­side? » Do you suf­fer more at night or dur­ing the day? » Do you wake up with symp­toms in the morn­ing? » Do you only get symp­toms at cer­tain times of the year? » Does ex­po­sure to an­i­mals bring on your symp­toms? » Does a par­tic­u­lar food or drink seem to bring on your symp­toms?

GET TESTED

Get­ting to the root cause of your symp­toms usu­ally means be­ing tested. The tests can de­tect al­ler­gies to dust mites, an­i­mal dan­der, mould spores, pol­lens, cer­tain foods, chem­i­cals, med­i­ca­tions, and some in­sect stings:

Skin prick test: This in­volves putting drops of sus­pected al­ler­gens on the fore­arm and some­times the back, then lightly prick­ing the skin through the drop with a nee­dle. Sen­si­tiv­ity to a par­tic­u­lar al­ler­gen can be iden­ti­fied by an itchy, red, raised area.

Blood tests: These are used for al­ler­gen-spe­cific IGE an­ti­bod­ies. Blood test­ing is a use­ful al­ter­na­tive when skin-prick test­ing is not pos­si­ble.

Patch tests: Patch tests are use­ful when test­ing for contact al­ler­gic der­mati­tis. A sam­ple of sub­stance is placed on your back and cov­ered with ad­he­sive strips. The area is ex­am­ined af­ter two and four days to see if a re­ac­tion oc­curs.

Se­rial end­point titra­tion: This type of skin-test­ing tech­nique of­fers a clearer pic­ture when di­ag­nos­ing al­ler­gens. The im­munother­apy dosage needed can be bet­ter de­ter­mined us­ing this method.

Elim­i­na­tion di­ets and chal­lenge test­ing: An elim­i­na­tion diet is usu­ally done over a few weeks and in­volves avoid­ing foods that have been iden­ti­fied as com­mon al­lergy trig­gers. If symp­toms im­prove, foods are rein­tro­duced one at a time un­der con­trolled con­di­tions to iden­tify di­etary trig­gers.

COSTS

If a doc­tor has re­quested skin prick and blood tests, Medi­care will cover part of the cost. You can ex­pect to pay about $120 for each test once Medi­care has cov­ered some of the costs.

TREAT­MENT OP­TIONS

Non-med­i­cated for­mu­las, med­i­ca­tion and im­munother­apy are the three main treat­ment op­tions. An al­lergy spe­cial­ist will rec­om­mend the best op­tion for you and give ad­vice on dosage, how of­ten you need to use them and how to keep side ef­fects to a min­i­mum. »

NON-MED­I­CATED FOR­MU­LAS

Ba­sic treat­ments to soothe mi­nor symp­toms are avail­able from most chemists and some su­per­mar­kets. They in­clude sa­line nasal sprays or rinses that you can use as needed to treat mild hay fever symp­toms like a stuffy nose.

MED­I­CA­TION

At some point, most peo­ple with al­ler­gies re­sort to us­ing de­con­ges­tants and antihistamines, which alle­vi­ate the symp­toms of a stuffy or runny nose, sneez­ing and itch­ing. Other med­i­ca­tions like cor­ti­cos­teroids (steroids) work by pre­vent­ing the in­flam­ma­tion that leads to un­com­fort­able al­lergy symp­toms.

IM­MUNOTHER­APY

For se­vere and per­sis­tent al­ler­gies, im­munother­apy may be rec­om­mended, es­pe­cially if you have been un­able to con­trol your symp­toms us­ing other meth­ods. Im­munother­apy in­volves get­ting small doses of the al­ler­gen – as an in­jec­tion or as drops or tablets un­der the tongue – over the course of sev­eral years. This won’t nec­es­sar­ily cure your al­lergy, but it will re­duce the sever­ity so you can take less med­i­ca­tion. In Aus­tralia, im­munother­apy is avail­able to treat in­sect-bite al­ler­gies, and is of­ten rec­om­mended to treat hay fever from dust mites and pollen.

Ba­sic treat­ments are avail­able from chemists

IF YOU’REUS­ING ORAL ANTIHISTAMINES, TAKE CARE WHEN OP­ER­AT­ING MA­CHIN­ERY, LIKE DRIV­ING A CAR, AS EVEN NON-SEDATING FORMS CAN MAKE PEO­PLE DROWSY.

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