When you've decided you want a better treatment plan for managing your allergy symptoms, it’s time to see an allergy specialist. Before setting up your appointment, prepare a list of things to discuss with your doctor. The guide below can get you started.
When to See a Doctor
People often deal with their allergy symptoms for years without seeking treatment. Many symptoms are manageable with antihistamines and decongestants, especially for those who only experience symptoms seasonally. However, for some, symptoms either become severe enough or last long enough that they disrupt the ability to live a normal life. In those cases, you should consider seeking treatment.
You should especially seek medical attention if over-the-counter medications fail to provide relief or if you find you have to take these medicines for longer than a couple of weeks. These medications are meant for short-term use because, over time, they begin to lose their effectiveness.
If you or your child begin to show asthma symptoms, it is important to seek the guidance of a doctor immediately. Asthma symptoms include excessive coughing that may include wheezing, difficulty catching your breath, and tightness in your chest. Asthma can be life-threatening if not treated, and allergies can exacerbate these problems.
Keep a Symptom Diary
Part of diagnosing your allergies is determining the time of year, allergy triggers, and situations in which you experience symptoms. If, for instance, your allergies are more pronounced in springtime, after four hours of working on your yard, this is important information for your doctor to know. It might be helpful to track your symptoms on a calendar or in a journal for a while. If your allergies are food-related, keep a food diary, noting symptoms in relation to what you eat.
Making Your Appointment
In some cases, general practitioners can treat and diagnose allergies. However, if your case is moderate to severe or your doctor doesn’t feel they can treat your case, you may be referred to an allergy specialist.
When you make your appointment, ask if there are any special instructions for preparing for your appointment. Your doctor may have specific paperwork requests and, if testing may occur during your first appointment, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for a certain period of time before your arrival.
During Your Visit
Your doctor will likely compile a complete family medical history, so it’s important to have as much information as possible about your family history of allergies, especially if your allergies are food-related.
You will be asked a series of questions about your own medical history as well, including any childhood allergies you might have had. Bring along any medical records you have or, if your doctor is referring you to a specialist, ask for those records to be transferred prior to your visit. This will help your allergist get a good idea of any lifelong problems that might have led to the problems you’re having today. The doctor may ask you what kinds of medications you have tried for your allergy symptoms in the past, and if any of these have been successful in managing your symptoms. It might be helpful to bring any creams, sprays, ointments, or medications you have tried in the past for the doctor to review during your visit.
Arrive at your appointment prepared to ask questions of your own. It might help to compile a list of questions you have for your physician in the days prior to your appointment.
Some sample questions include:
- Is there anything I can change in my environment or lifestyle to prevent these symptoms?
- What can I expect from treatment?
- Are there any side effects to the medication you are prescribing?
- What tests are available to determine what is causing my allergic reaction?
After Your Visit
As part of your initial assessment, your doctor might examine your nose, throat, skin, and lungs. If you are diagnosed with food allergies or airborne allergies, the next step is to run tests, if needed.
During your initial visit, you and your specialist may decide to conduct testing for allergies. If this is the case, your skin will likely be tested for reaction to various substances. Based on the results, your doctor will recommend treatment, which may include:
- allergy shots
- avoiding certain allergy triggers
- prescription medications
- lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms, especially if your allergies are related to food or environmental factors
If you have questions following your appointment, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. They may recommend a follow-up appointment, especially if medication is prescribed.