Elective Allergy Testing - Worth It?

I’ve been quite healthy for a while now, and have some money stocked up in my HSA (health savings account) and have been considering getting allergy testing done.

I’ve never been diagnosed with “allergies” but it’s pretty evident that I have issues with the outdoors, and they seem to be getting worse. This year I started experiencing dry/itchy eyes which is something I’ve never had before. Also, lately in this very dry weather we’ve been having, most days I feel like crap (tired, itchy eyes, stuffed up nose with no discharge, etc.) The time I feel the best is when I am inside, in my home with the new Clean Air Filter and air conditioning.

Cost aside, would it be worth it for me to get an allergy test so I know what I am allergic to and so I could possibly get prescriptions and/or advice on what OTC stuff to take and when? I have a friend who says she takes Claratin D daily and it helps her a lot, but I would sort of like to know if this would be beneficial to me, by way of allergy test. Plus there are so many allergy medications out there, I have absolutely no clue what would be the best for me.

Can anyone share their experience with allergy tests and what it told them? Has it improved your life knowing what your body is sensitive to? What is the procedure nowadays anyway? (I am familiar with pin-prick tests…also not afraid of needles).

One other thing - would I go to my GP to have this done, or is there some sort of specialist?

My mother is actually a nurse in a doctor’s office that specializes in allergy testing. I do not have a lot of direct experience, but you’ll probably find out several things you didn’t know you were allergic to and that can be very beneficial. Some allergies are even treatable, allowing you to eventually eliminate them, rather than just treating the symptoms. So basically I’d say you have nothing to lose getting tested.

I took an allergy test at a specialist’s about five years ago. The main portion of the test is sticking you in the back with needles, each containing minute amounts of an allergen. If your skin reacted to it, then you were allergic to the substance, and the level of reaction reflected the degree of your allergy to it. Based on this test, the specialist was able to have an extract custom-blended based on my allergies (dust, dog and grass). This extract is what gets shot into my arm every 1-2 weeks. Allergy shots work by gradually builidng up your body’s resistance to allergens. I went off shots for a little over 6 months last year when I was living in the UK, but even in that period of time I felt I handled dust better than I would have, had I never received shots. But if you don’t plan on receiving allergy shots, I’m not sure how much an allergy test can actually help you. Maybe you’ll find that a certain plant in your yard or the family cat is what’s causing your symptoms, and you can get rid of it.

Oh, I wouldn’t mind getting allergy shots at all. I never knew they existed. Also never knew allergy specialists existed. So, yay! Thanks for the answers so far!

I would try Claritin for a while, before going for the testing. But don’t use the Claritin-D formula if your nose isn’t actively running. Or only use it every other day or so. I was using it daily, and found that it was actually making my sinus issues worse, as it dries things up too much. For your sinuses, it’s better that things move a bit - helps prevent infections.

I had weekly or biweekly allergy shots for most of my youth - say ages 10-23 - and I can’t say that they helped my allergies at all. I’m still allergic to the same things I was at 20, with the same severity, 20 years later. I think the only thing I’m not allergic to is rocks.

I recently went to an ENT for chronic sinus problems, found out I need surgery for a deviated septum and the glorious-sounding “concha bullosa”. The ENT is partnered with an allergist, and insisted I go through two rounds of testing, despite the fact that I know perfectly well what I’m allergic to.

I can’t help but wondering if the allergy testing/weekly shots thing isn’t a bit of a scam. I would have to pay my $10 co-pay each visit - lord knows what they charge my insurance company.

Try the Claritin first.

I’ve suffered from environmental allergies all my life. I finally went to an allergist, did the testing, and started taking the shots. At first it was a pain, leaving work early to get a weekly shot and waiting around 20 minutes to ensure no reaction. The shots are not a magic bullet; they take a while to work. Eventually, you get scaled back to biweekly, then monthly shots. Long story short, nothing works better than the shots! Moderate improvement is usually noted by the 6 month mark. After a year, you should be getting full benefit (YMMV). I was able to completely kick the OTC decongestant/nasal spray addiction that had gripped me for years. I did the shots for 5 years and only quit when I moved away. I did fine for probably a year after I stopped the shots before allergies started gradually creeping back. They are not as bad as they were before and are fairly manageable with OTC & prescription meds (claritin/zyrtec), but I would go back to the shots if I felt I needed to.

A doctor once gave me the allergy test. It’s like 5000 needles with the allergen. Ok 5000 may be an exaggeration. She did not have an answer for my question, when I ask “What if I’m allergic to being stuck with needles?”

I would say go for it. I had the full battery done many years ago, and it was worth it just to know exactly what I’m allergic to (trees, grass, and dust - not cats or dogs). I just use a nose spray occasionally because I’m horribly reactive to pill-form antihistamines (they all make me extremely drowsy, non-drowsy formula or not), and my allergies concentrate on my respiratory system.

The needles used for allergy testing are very tiny - just little pinpricks, really. I wouldn’t get too worried about that.

I thought it was worthwhile. I found out that my most severe allergy was dust mites, when I didn’t know I was allergic to them at all. Dust mites are kind of a special case, in that there are a number of steps that can be taken to avoid them, even though they are present indoors, all year round. This made a big difference in my wellbeing. Also, it’s a great excuse not to get roped into cleaning any attics.

I got allergy shots for about 2 years. Getting them was not very pleasant, since it always meant about 2 days of fatigue and bad allergies. But now that I had to discontinue due to schedule changes, my allergies bother me less than before, so the shots did some good.

Some of my other allergies are to oak pollen and ragweed, both very common. www.pollen.com has a service where you can sign up with what you are allergic to and they will send you emails when that pollen is in season where you are. It remembers you from year to year. Knowing about these outdoor allergies allows me to realize that the late April charity walk is something I’m likely to regret, since that’s when oak pollen hits big time.

My brother had terrible seasonal allergies as a child and got allergy shots until he had a bad reaction one day. Hasn’t had an allergy attack since. Sometimes they do work.

My doctor did RAST testing. They draw some blood, send it off to a lab and a week later you have your results. IMHO this is better than the skin test. Found out I was allergic to barley, have not had a beer in 10 years. Man I miss beer. Fellow dopers have one for me!

I was allergy tested about 15 years ago (at the tender age of 5). When I was really little my allergies were really terrible - I remember not being able to go outside for recess in the springtime because I was so severely allergic to pollen. (aww…:()

I ended up getting shots, starting twice weekly and gradually tapering off to once every four weeks by the time I was 11 or so. (I have a distinct memory of going to the allergists’ office to get the test, and seeing someone getting a shot and thinking “boy, I’m glad that’s not ME!” … little did I know…) I don’t remember exactly when/why they stopped, but the whole course wasn’t more than 6 or 7 years. (That kind of makes it sound like a huge commitment, actually…) My allergies are not gone now… but now I don’t get them much worse than normal folks. Though I still sneeze quite a lot, I secretly enjoy sneezes so it’s okay. :slight_smile:

Anyway, I would say it’s kind of like gastric bypass surgery… getting shots (as others noted, the main reason to get tested) can make a huge difference if your problem is severe enough. If it’s relatively mild - though just because your allergies came on late in life, doesn’t mean they’re particularly mild - YMMV.

I’ve been tested for allergies at least twice that I remember. Once when I was a young teenager. I didn’t stick with the shots. Then once again as a young adult.

The funny thing is, I used to give myself my own allergy shots as a young adult. From what I understand, you’re not allowed to do that anymore.

I still have seasonal allergies. I should have stuck with the shots. I think I might get tested again, now that I’m responsible enough to stick with the shots.

Total waste of time. I already knew that I was allergic to grass and pollen and dust, which is why I spent half my life sneezing and sniffling.

I made the appointment when I broke out in hives. By the time the appointment came around I had figured out what caused them (guava, of all things) but figured I might as well go anyway. So the main effect of the test was to give the allergist something to talk to his colleagues about (because he had never seen a guava allergy before; he excitedly turned to his textbooks when he saw the results).

Nothing worked for my respiratory allergies, everything I tried was either ineffective or incapacitating (or both). I killed many old growth forests with my kleenex consumption. I didn’t feel like signing up for the lengthy inconvenience of allergy shots, so I gave up dairy.

My allergies completely went away. They only come back if I sneak some pizza.

The testing and shots have done wonders for me. Plus the doc provided some medicines for a particularly bad attack, both inhaled and taken orally, that’ll provide relief well beyond what OTC can provide.

The needles are nuthin’. Sometimes you’re not even positive if you felt it at all.

Many new Houstonians have dire allergies; I’ve lived in the area since early childhood. As a teen, seasonal allergies got worse & worse; one weekend afternoon, after a drive through the country, I had trouble breathing. The GP gave me a shot (probably cortisone?) & referred me to an allergist.

Lots of little needle pricks on my inner arms; a few became red & swollen. So I got shots every week for years.

I still get some seasonal symptoms, but nothing an occasional OTC pill can’t handle. However, I don’t know that the improvement was totally the result of the treatment.

All this happened many years ago. Perhaps we’ll get an update from the SDMB medical experts.

I mentioned this to a doctor friend the other night (although, a child psychologist who works at a hospital, not a GP…) and he said that if I went to get tested they’d tell me to stop smoking and then come back for the test :frowning:

Makes sense - I’m sure smoking doesn’t help my nasal situation at all.

Thanks for the advice, though. Keep talking about your experiences anyway - for posterity!

That’s a good point; my Flonase is the shit, man. I can feel it clearing a path through my sinuses when I break down (or remember) and finally take a sniff. I guess my allergies aren’t too bad when it doesn’t always occur to me why I’m so sniffy and sneezy and eyes runny and stuff. :smack:

I wouldn’t take this as gospel. I don’t smoke, but my allergist seems really happy to test people if they have signs of allergies. Yes, you should quit smoking, and the allergist will probably tell you that, but I doubt he would refuse to test you. That seems unprofessional, frankly. What if it were your spouse who smoked instead, would they tell you to get divorced first?

I had the RAST testing too. From what I remember, you can’t test for food allergies any other way. It was good to find out what I’m allergic too, because it gave me a heads up on things. I have a minor dairy allergy, which was useful to know, since it explained why sometimes I would have stomach pain for no apparent reason. I need to eat a lot of dairy before it bothers me.

I’m also allergic to cats and some trees (I have 4 cats, but only one causes me problems) and I always suffer at tree pollen time. I take OTC generic Claritin; the doc said some people do better taking 2 instead of the recommended 1, which is what I do. I thought the testing was very helpful.