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Allergies


By Chris Woolston, M.S.

Allergies are a highly individualized form of misery. Some people turn into an itchy, drippy wreck whenever they're around cats, while others can't get within 100 yards of ragweed in the spring. Still others have allergies to food so severe that a peanut or other substance can send them to the emergency room with a life-threatening reaction. Meanwhile, some people barely notice their allergies and never even have to monitor what's in their food.

Since allergies come in so many forms, there are no one-size-fits-all treatments. To get personalized information about your particular case, you'll have to talk to your doctor. A nurse practitioner, family physician, or allergist can give you the information you need to keep your allergies in check.

Here's a rundown of the most important questions to ask when discussing allergies with your doctor:

  • Do I have allergies, or could any other condition be causing my symptoms?
  • If I have allergies, what could be triggering them?
  • Are there ways to take care of my symptoms without taking medication, such as avoiding pollens, dust, certain foods, and so on?
  • If I need medications, what are my options, and how should I take them to get the most benefit from them?
  • What over-the-counter medications might be safe and effective? Which side effects or drug interactions should I watch out for?
  • What prescription drugs can be used for my allergies? Which side effects or drug interactions should I watch out for?
  • Should I get skin testing?
  • Might allergy shots help my symptoms? What are their risks and benefits?
  • Can shots cause a severe allergic reaction? What can I do if that happens?
  • Can allergies trigger an asthma attack?
  • Will my allergies ever go away?
  • If I have very severe allergies, do I need to carry injectable epinephrine with me and/or wear a medical alert bracelet at all times? What other precautions should I take?
  • When should I have a follow-up appointment?

You'll undoubtedly have other questions of your own. Whatever your concern, be sure to share it with your doctor. You can take control of your allergy, but you need answers first.

References

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. The allergy report: Questions to ask your doctor.

American Academy of Family Physicians. Allergies: Things you can do to control your symptoms. July 2004.

Cleveland Clinic Health System. Medical Evaluation of Allergies. December 2000.

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