ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (August 27, 2020) – So much has changed in the last six months that the world seems upside down. But the continued presence of COVID-19 has not altered the fact that if you suffer from fall allergies, you may need to return to your allergist for treatment.
“Allergists know that our patients want to stay safe from COVID, while at the same time keeping their allergies and asthma under control,” says allergist J. Allen Meadows, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “Our first priority as allergists is keeping patients, staff and everyone involved in an appointment safe from COVID. Certain procedures require a trip to the office, so if you do have to come in, know that your allergist has put protocols in place to make your visit comfortable and safe.”
According to Dr. Meadows, you should consider coming into your allergist’s office for these five reasons:
- Allergy shots – The most natural and best way of treating moderate to severe allergies is by allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots), made from an extract of things that trigger your allergies. Allergy shots are the only treatment that change the immune system, making it possible to prevent the development of new allergies and asthma. Shots can be tailored to your particular allergy and can be used to treat allergies including trees, grass, weeds, mold, house dust, animal dander, and insect stings.
- New patient visits – If fall means suffering from a stuffy, runny nose, and itchy eyes, it is possible you have allergies and should visit an allergist. When you see a board-certified allergist for the first time, they will obtain a history from you related to your allergy symptoms and perform a physical exam that needs to be done in person. Only then can it be determined if allergy testing is appropriate, and if so, for which allergens. The next step is deciding what type of allergy testing should be performed. The best testing for most patients is an allergy skin prick test, which needs to happen in the allergist’s office.
- Allergy testing – Allergy tests are used to determine exactly what’s causing your symptoms. Each test is specific for a particular “allergen.” Typically, allergy tests evaluate you for sensitivity to pets (such as cats and dogs), dust mites, grasses, trees, weeds, and molds. Where you live may determine which pollens are included in your test. Allergy tests can also be done for foods, penicillin, eczema, asthma, and insects, depending upon your history. If your allergist does not do a skin test, they might perform a blood test. Skin tests are more sensitive than blood tests, but an allergist might use a blood test to diagnose allergies if you’re taking a medicine that could interfere with allergy test results or you have very sensitive skin or a serious skin condition.
- Biologics – Biologic therapies are at the cutting edge of treatment because they have the potential to be personalized – to be formulated to treat specific cells and/or antibodies that lead to allergic inflammation. Biologics are now being used to treat allergic disorders such as asthma, atopic dermatitis (eczema), and even chronic sinus disease in patients with nasal polyps. Biologics are made from a living organism or contain components of living organisms. Typically, biologics are given via a shot, at least at first. So, if you are on a biologic, a visit to the allergist is in order.
- Oral food challenges – The best way to find out if someone has a food allergy is through an oral food challenge (OFC), where the person is given a very small dose of the food by mouth under the supervision of a board-certified allergist to test for a severe reaction. OFCs are the “gold standard” of food allergy testing and studies have shown they are extremely safe, with very few people having a reaction of any kind. That said, an OFC must be done in an allergist’s office under their supervision in the rare case of an allergic reaction.
If fall allergies are hitting you particularly hard, consider a visit to your allergist. Allergists are specially trained to help you take control of your allergies and asthma, so you can live the life you want.