Almost everybody is allergic to something or the other, whether it is the high pollen count during spring, dust, peanuts, milk or shellfish. Some types of allergies are rare and highly specific whereas others, such as allergies to dust, pollen or allergic rhinitis (hay fever) are far more common.
It is not easy to determine exactly what you are allergic to without proper allergy testing. For example, you may find yourself sniffling every morning but without a proper test you may not be able to confirm whether it is because of house dust or dust mites on your bedding.
Allergy testing is the best way to find out what is the exact substance that you are allergic to. The most frequently performed test is the skin prick test which involves pricking the patients skin (usually the forearm or upper arm) and placing a small concentrate of multiple allergens on it. The patient then has to wait for approximately 15 minutes after which he or she should see swellings on the areas which have the allergen concentrate that they are allergic to. This test may also reveal allergies that a patient might have to a substance that they have never come in contact with. For example someone who has never come in contact with eucalyptus might be strongly allergic to it.
Two other allergy tests are the intradermal and patch test.
The intradermal test involves injecting the patient with an allergen such as bee venom and is also used in case there is speculation that a allergic reaction wasn't shown in the skin prick test.
The patch test is also straightforward where the patient applies a 'patch' containing an allergen onto his or her body and keeps it on for approximately 48 hours after which the patch is removed. If the swelling or rash is still visible after 96 hours the dermatologist can then identify the allergen. The tests also display the severity of the allergy based on the size of the swelling or rash.
How Can My Allergies Be Treated?
Two of the most common ways to treat allergies are, antihistamines and immunotherapy. Antihistamines provide relief by reducing itching, sniffling and sneezing and are used when needed and can be used as a preventative measure. Immunotherapy on the other hand has more long lasting effects but also needs time to have an effect. Essentially, immunotherapy involves administering the allergen to the patient continuously till he or she build us an immunity to it. This can be done through injections (allergy shots) or sublingually where the allergen is administered under the patients tongue.
There are also multiple other treatments for other specific allergies such as eye drops for itchy eyes.