Definition and Overview
Allergy consultation, which could be an initial or a follow-up consultation, is an appointment with an allergist or immunologist. It is recommended for patients who are suffering from allergy- related symptoms and those who are at risk and require preventive treatment.
Almost everyone has some form of allergy. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, more than 7% of people who are 18 years old and above have allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Around the world, at least 10% of the population has it. Further, over the last 50 years, the rate of allergies has increased especially in more modern nations. Meanwhile, the number of children that have been affected by allergies have increased by as much as 40% in recent years.
Allergies are interrelated to the body’s immune system, which is responsible for protecting the body against infection. A complex vital network, it is composed of the bone marrow, lymphatic vessels, tonsils, blood vessels, appendix, and adenoids, to name a few. The immune system creates “soldiers” called the antibodies, which eliminate any threat that gets into the body. However, in some cases, bacteria or virus gets into the body and create symptoms. As the immune system fights these pathogens, it develops specific antibodies. This way, the next time it is exposed to the same bacteria or virus, it can kill the pathogen.
For people with allergies, they develop immunoglobulin E antibodies that attack “harmless” substances or objects like pollen, dander, and dust. If a person inhales dust, for example, the immune system goes into overdrive, increasing the release of histamine, which then causes the common symptoms of allergies such as:
- Stuffy nose
- Teary eyes
- Difficulty in breathing
- Stomach pain
In some cases, allergies are so severe, the person goes into an anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
An allergy consultation is recommended if:
The patient is prone to anaphylactic shock – Anaphylactic shock is a systemic allergic reaction, which can result in difficulty in breathing. This may be due to the constriction of the windpipe as it becomes inflamed. This kind of allergic reaction is considered a medical emergency.
The patient wants to minimize the frequency of allergic reactions. During the consultation, the allergist will identify the causes, provide treatment, modify treatment plan if necessary, and recommend an ideal form of intervention to achieve the patient’s goal.
The patient wants to know the cause of allergic reaction – The first step to managing any type of allergy is to identify its causes so it can be avoided as much as possible.
he patient has the risk factors associated with allergies – These include genetic and environmental factors. For example, a person who lives with pets is more likely to develop allergic reactions due to the presence of pet dander. An allergy consultation can then be used to explore all preventive measures so patients can avoid symptoms as much as possible.
The allergy affects the person’s way of life – Allergies are often easy to manage. However, in cases of severe conditions, these can significantly limit the patient’s function that can ultimately affect his quality of life.
A consultation with an allergist or immunologist can yield the following results:
A more comprehensive understanding of allergies in general and the specific allergies of the patient
- A customized intervention plan to eliminate or reduce the appearance or frequency of allergies
- Diagnosis of a possible immune system disorder or other underlying conditions that increase the risk of allergies
- Tracking of allergy progression and the effectiveness of the intervention
- Improvement of a person’s quality of life and mobility
How Does the Procedure Work?
Often, people with allergies approach an allergist or an immunologist after a direct referral from their GP, who typically forward their medical records to the chosen specialist.
During the initial consultation, the doctor will conduct an interview and ask questions about:
- The patient's main concern
- Specific symptoms of allergies and whether they are mild or severe
- If the symptoms appear at specific times or activities
- If the patient has relatives or family members with the same allergies
- When the allergies start
- If the patient has an existing medical condition, especially one that affects the blood or immune system
- Whether or not the patient is taking medications for the treatment of the allergies
- Whether the symptoms are getting worse
- Whether there are factors that increase the likelihood of having allergies
Different tests may then be conducted to identify the specific allergen. These include a skin prick test. In this exam, the skin, usually that of the arm, is exposed to an allergen in a form of a drop. The skin is then pricked, and the allergist watches for a reaction. If a mosquito-bite-like bump appears on the pricked skin, the person is most likely allergic to the dropped substance.
For those with food allergies, an elimination diet may be suggested. This means the patient removes the possible allergens from the diet over a course of a certain period and then reintroduced. If the patient is reactive after the introduction, the eliminated food may be the cause of the allergies.
If the results of the other tests are inconclusive, a blood test may be ordered to identify the specific antigen produced by the body.
Depending on the results of the exams and the interview, the allergist can then provide treatment such as vaccines or desensitization, all of which would require regular follow-ups.
Possible Risks and Complications
Just because a person reacts to a specific allergen during the tests does not have to mean he’s already allergic to it. As such, one of the risks of the procedure is that it does not guarantee that the main cause of the allergies can be identified in one consultation. The same goes with the treatment plan. Thus, more visits to the allergist are typically required. However, this may result in the patient getting frustrated, forcing him to stop seeking further treatment or help.
- Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics | www.aanma.org
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology | www.aaaai.org
- American Academy of Pediatrics | www.aap.org
- American Lung Association | www.lungusa.org