To evaluate whether you have an allergy, your doctor may:
- Ask detailed questions about signs and symptoms
- Perform a physical exam
- Have you keep a detailed diary of symptoms and possible triggers
If you have a food allergy, your doctor may:
- Ask you to keep a detailed diary of the foods you eat
- Have you eliminate a food from your diet (elimination diet) — and then have you eat the food in question again to see if it causes a reaction
Your doctor may also recommend one or both of the following tests:
- Skin test. Your skin is pricked and exposed to small amounts of the proteins found in potential allergens. If you’re allergic, you’ll likely develop a raised bump (hive) at the test location on your skin. Allergy specialists usually are best equipped to perform and interpret allergy skin tests.
- Blood test. A blood test that’s sometimes called the radioallergosorbent test (RAST) can measure your immune system’s response to a specific allergen by measuring the amount of allergy-causing antibodies in your bloodstream, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. A blood sample is sent to a medical laboratory, where it can be tested for evidence of sensitivity to possible allergens.
Allergy treatments include:
- Allergen avoidance. Your doctor will help you take steps to identify and avoid your allergy triggers. This is generally the most important step in preventing allergic reactions and reducing symptoms.
- Medications to reduce symptoms. Depending on your allergy, allergy medications can help reduce your immune system reaction and ease symptoms. Medications can include over-the-counter or prescription medications in the form of oral medications, nasal sprays or eyedrops.
- Immunotherapy. For severe allergies or allergies not completely relieved by other treatment, your doctor may recommend allergen immunotherapy. This treatment involves a series of injections of purified allergen extracts, usually given over a period of a few years.
Another form of immunotherapy is a tablet that’s placed under the tongue (sublingual) until it dissolves. Sublingual drugs are used to treat some pollen allergies.
- Emergency epinephrine. If you have a severe allergy, your doctor may give you an emergency epinephrine shot to carry with you at all times. Given for severe allergic reactions, an epinephrine shot (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) can reduce symptoms until you get emergency treatment.