1 + 2 + 3 ALLERGY PLAN
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?
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.
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.
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. »
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.
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.
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.