How are Respiratory Allergies Diagnosed?
A respiratory allergy can start with a common stuffy nose. In time, eventually progress to coughing and difficult breathing.
When visiting a doctor, you will get a series of questions to identify the cause. The healthcare professional will ask about your exposure and reactions to different allergens. They’ll also inquire about your personal and family medical history to identify any familial allergies. The doctor would exclude other disorders with similar symptoms. He may ask you to pay close attention for a period of time to possible allergenic factors and reactions.
The doctor will choose a testing method, most common an allergic skin test. Allergenic groups, including food allergies, insect stings, dust/mites, molds-family, and common drugs (such as penicillin-family antibiotics, etc.), undergo evaluation. The doctor applies a small amount of allergenic substance to the skin and observes for a reaction after half an hour. The reaction can be swelling, itchiness and redness at the site of scratch. That indicates an allergic reaction to the specific allergen scratched on the skin. The doctor may also ask for blood test to look for specific blood markers, such as IgE antibodies associated with allergic reaction.
Before the skin test, the doctor may measure the lung functions and repeat this after inhaling an anti-inflammatory drug. This is to determine the presence of an inflammatory reaction in the respiratory system.
What are the Treatments for Allergies?
The most effective treatment for allergies is to avoid the allergenic triggers. This can be difficult sometimes because some of them cannot be avoided. These are such as outside mold found in the air all year around, or triggers not clearly identified.
The most common medications for allergies are antihistamines. These block the body overreaction to allergens. In severe allergic reactions, anti-inflammatory steroids are usually prescribed. In emergency situations, epinephrine injections (epi-pen) are used to bring quick relief and restore normal breathing.
The allergic reactions can manifest as skin allergies, respiratory allergies or even other body general symptoms, such as diarrhea, headaches, etc.
Skin allergies are known as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and contact dermatitis. They are treated usually topical, with hydro-cortisone or other anti-inflammatory steroid, or sometimes orally.
Respiratory allergies can manifest in different ways. Sometimes the symptoms are localized only in the upper respiratory system, mostly nasal passages. They can also progress and affect the lung functions. Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is usually treated with nasal corticosteroid spray.
When the lung functions are affected as a result of allergens, allergic asthma is diagnosed. The symptoms here include: coughing, difficult breathing or shortness of breath. It can also include low oxygen level in the blood, as a result of allergic inflammation on the respiratory system. Read more here about types of asthma and treatment.
For food, insect stings and drug allergies the best treatment is to avoid the food and drugs that cause an allergic reaction. If the reaction is not strong the doctor may prescribe antihistamines or topical creams. These are to relieve the itchiness and slow down the reaction. In severe reactions the doctor will prescribe epinephrine injections to prevent an anaphylactic shock.