Specific or multiple food allergies are often difficult to sort out. If you believe your symptoms indicate a food allergy, talk to your regular doctor or healthcare provider. They may be able to help you locate an allergist/immunologist in your area.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI), an allergist (also called an immunologist) is a pediatrician or internist with at least two additional years of specialized training in diagnosing and treating allergies. An allergist will be able to perform the necessary tests to determine exactly what food proteins are causing your allergic reactions. He or she will also be able to help you find treatment options for your particular allergy and provide advice on how to manage the allergy.
Be prepared to give your allergist a detailed description of your symptoms, food suspicions, and other factors that may be contributing to your condition. Also, make a list of any questions you have.
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) also recommends that you keep a food diary for one to two weeks before your doctor’s visit. In this diary, write down everything you eat or drink, any symptoms you experience after eating or drinking, and how long after eating or drinking you experience these symptoms.
Questions to Ask the Allergist
The Mayo Clinic provides a list of questions you may want to ask the allergist during your initial visit. Recommended questions include:
- Is my condition likely caused by a food allergy or another reaction?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or long lasting?
- What types of treatments are available and which do you recommend?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Are there any dietary restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist? Will my insurance cover seeing a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Do you have any printed material that I can take home with me? Is information available online?
The Kids With Food Allergies Foundation (KFA) recommends asking an allergist the following questions regarding how to treat and manage your child’s food allergy:
- How can the particular food be avoided?
- What do I do in case of an accidental ingestion of the food?
- What are the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis?
- Should an auto-injector of epinephrine be used? How does it work?
- Should an antihistamine be given? What is an appropriate dose?
- Should the doctor be called after every allergic reaction?
- What resources are available to help me and/or my child?
- Is there a plan to reintroduce the food at an appropriate time?
Sometimes, such as in the case of a severe allergic reaction, there is no time to make an appointment with an allergist. If you have any of the following symptoms or if milder symptoms are getting worse, use your epinephrine auto-injector and visit an emergency room immediately:
- hoarseness, throat tightness, or a lump in the throat
- wheezing or difficulty breathing
- chest tightness
- tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp
- dizziness, fainting, or a sudden drop in blood pressure
- racing pulse