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Diagnosing, testing, and treating allergies

With an estimated 40 percent of Kentuckians suffering seasonal allergies, learn what you can do to keep allergies from ruining your springtime fun.

Are these allergy symptoms?
Your primary care doctor can help you begin to determine if you have allergies, or if you are suffering from a cold. Your physician will check your ears, eyes, throat, and nose for redness and irritation. The physician may also test your breathing to determine if you are having trouble exhaling from your lungs.

If you are diagnosed with allergies, but your doctor believes your allergies are more severe than what can be managed by simple over-the-counter medications, you may be referred to an allergy specialist, who will ask more specific questions.

What does allergy testing involve?
Your allergy specialist may recommend you be tested for common airborne allergens, including plant pollens, dust mites, cockroach, animal dander, and molds. If symptoms suggest, tests can also be used to determine common food allergies like shellfish, dairy products, eggs, wheat, and peanuts. Testing for some medications—such as penicillin—can be done when necessary.

The main way to test for allergies is through skin tests, whereby small drops of allergen are placed on or just below the outer layer of skin. In some cases, a blood test can be used to determine allergies. In both tests, redness, swelling, and itching of the site will begin within 20 minutes in the area of the allergen that triggers your allergies.

How to control allergies?
There are three main ways to control allergies—avoiding your triggers, medication, and allergy shots. Numerous medications are available both over-the-counter and by prescription, including oral medications, eye drops, and sinus sprays. For more serious conditions, regularly scheduled allergy shots can be administered. Your allergies and symptoms will determine which treatment option is best for you.

Allergies in Kentucky are about as common as horses, but they do not have to limit your ability to enjoy the spring and be outdoors. Talk with your physician about the best way to keep pesky allergies from ruining your plans.

Dr. Beth Miller is director of the University of Kentucky Asthma, Allergy and Sinus Clinics and division chief of Allergy and Immunology.


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