Allergies affect over 50 million people in the United States annually, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. If the high pollen count makes you sneeze, take a look at what your need to know before choosing an allergy treatment.
Do You Have a Doctor's Diagnosis?
Even though your eyes water, your nose runs, and you sneeze every time you go outdoors, you still need a doctor (or other qualified medical provider) to diagnose seasonal allergies. Along with an exam and health history, the doctor will need to order allergy testing. After diagnosis, the doctor will recommend a treatment that best matches your allergy.
What Types of Testing Do Doctors Use?
To accurately diagnose the type of allergy you have, it's likely the medical provider will recommend either blood or skin tests. A skin test can provide quick results, while blood tests typically take longer. To conduct a skin test, the doctor will either prick the skin (on your forearm) with the suspected allergen or inject the allergen under the skin.
A reaction can happen almost immediately and indicates a positive test. Some patients experience a delayed reaction. This can happen any time from hours to days later. The doctor will need to know what medications you regularly take before a skin allergy test. Some medications may cause false results. If you are on a medication that interferes with the results, the doctor may recommend a blood test.
What Types of Treatments Will the Doctor Recommend?
The answer to this question depends on the type of allergy you have. The easiest way to treat allergies is to stop the reaction before it starts. If the doctor can positively identify a trigger (such as pollen), avoid the cause.
Even though trigger avoidance can reduce the likelihood of a reaction, it isn't always possible. If you can't avoid pollen, ragweed, dust, or other causes of your symptoms, the doctor may recommend either an over-the-counter or prescription medication. These often include nasal corticosteroids (nasal sprays), antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, and decongestants.
If you have a severe or life-threatening allergy, you may need a self-injectable epinephrine device. These pre-measured pen devices are a first-line treatment for anaphylaxis. Even though epinephrine can slow down or stop a severe reaction, you still need to seek emergency professional medical treatment. This type of medication is not used to treat mild or moderate symptoms, such as sneezing or itchy eyes.
Allergy treatment and allergy testing go hand-in-hand. You'll need testing first and treatment after a diagnosis. If you're not sure which allergy treatment is right for you, talk to your doctor about the options and how each one affects your type of allergy.