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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Resources > Ask the Allergist

Allergy Testing

Q. I have asthma and was sent to an ENT because of a persistent sinus infection. The ENT did surgery on my blocked passages, which has helped some. He also did allergy testing, to 19 allergens, and told me I was highly sensitive to all of them. My question is - would an allergist test for and treat more allergens than the ENT?

A. These positive tests are only important if they match your personal allergy medical history. This correlation has far greater importance than the number of tests done, which can vary based on one's history, geographic location, etc. For example, a positive skin test to ragweed pollen is only meaningful if you experience allergic nasal and eye symptoms during the ragweed pollen season in the late summer.

Q. I have asthma and was sent to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon (by my pulmonologist) because of a persistent sinus infection. Because of blocked passages, the ENT did surgery which has helped some. He also did allergy testing, to 19 allergens, and told me I was highly sensitive to all of them. He wants me to start allergy shots (immunotherapy), but I question whether I may be allergic to additional, untested allergens. I don't want to go through years of time commitment and expense and still find myself miserable because of untested and untreated allergies. My question, then - would an allergist test for and treat more allergens than the ENT surgeon did?

A. These positive tests are only important if they match your personal allergy medical history. This correlation has far greater importance than the number of tests done, which can vary based on one's history, geographic location, etc. For example, a positive skin test to ragweed pollen is only meaningful if you experience allergic nasal and eye symptoms during the ragweed pollen season in the late summer. A positive test to dust mites is only important if you experience sneezing or itchy eyes when you vacuum or disturb indoor house dust. People without identifiable allergic triggers could have non-allergic nasal conditions. If indeed you have symptoms that match your allergic sensitivities identified by skin testing, allergy injections may be useful in controlling chronic nasal symptoms and sometimes in preventing future sinus infections. Before going straight to allergy injections, however, we recommend that everyone have a good trial of medications known to be effective in controlling nasal allergy and preventing sinus infections - including nasal steroid sprays. Environmental control measures can also be helpful, depending on the allergen. Read more about the accurate diagnosis and treatment of environmental allergies

Most allergy sufferers feel board-certified allergists are more effective at relieving their symptoms. In a study, 54% of sufferers reported their allergist recommended a treatment plan that was more effective than any other non-allergist (such as ENT surgeon, family physician, etc.), or over-the-counter medication. An allergist is an expert trained at taking a detailed medical history, and interpreting allergy test results, and is successful in treating up to 90 percent of patients with seasonal allergies and 70 to 80 percent with perennial allergies. Read more about the training received by a board certified allergist.



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