Allergy Testing & Treatment
What is allergy testing?
Allergy skin or blood testing identifies environmental, food, drug and insect allergies. Skin testing is more sensitive and usually preferred though certain conditions warrant blood tests. This is the first step to determine what treatment may work best.
What are allergy shots?
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are the closest thing to an allergy cure. Allergens (pollen, mold, dust mite or animal dander) are injected under the skin at increasing doses to slowly desensitize the body to these triggers. Injections usually begin at least weekly and space out gradually to monthly for a total of 3-5 years.
Is there an age limit for shots?
Environmental allergy injections typically begin at 4 years and up when patients can communicate properly. In the case of severe reactions to insects, treatment may begin sooner if the risk of exposure is high.
There is not an upper age limit, though certain health issues may exclude therapy.
What are allergy drops?
Allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy) follows the same concept as shots, however the allergens are dropped under the tongue rather than being injected. If schedule or distance prevents regular visits to the allergy clinic, or you cannot tolerate repeated injections, these are a useful alternative.
Why get tested?
Identified triggers can be reduced or avoided. If the allergen is seasonal, patients can anticipate when to start or adjust medications. Also, your exact allergy profile is needed to prepare allergy shots, which help patients with severe or persistent asthma and allergy.
Why should I get shots?
A board-certified allergist focuses on underlying causes for your discomfort and not just symptoms. If medications do not provide sufficient relief or you wish to take less medications, immunotherapy may be for you.
Immunotherapy is also available to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis to insect stings.
Does insurance cover shots?
Most insurance plans cover allergy injections, though the exact co-pay or deductible varies by plan. As the number of injections decreases with time, so do any associated costs. As a service to our patients, we verify benefits to determine any out-of-pocket expenses before starting.
Drops vs. Shots
Allergy drops are typically taken daily before meals. Drops carry much less risk of anaphylaxis vs. injections and can be administered at home.
Note the base cost to produce medical-grade allergy extracts is quite high, so be wary of "drops" sold by non-allergist providers, health stores or even online as these may not contain safe or effective doses for long-term benefit.
How does testing work?
A small drop of allergen extract is scratched against the skin and observed for itching and/or swelling. This is generally safe and not painful, though itching may occur if the patient is allergic. Over the counter anithistamine medications should be held prior to testing.
Does immunotherapy work?
Yes! Shots prepared by a board-certified allergy specialist are proven to reduce nasal, sinus, eye and asthma symptoms. Many patients reduce or stop medications, saving time and money in the long run.
What if I don't like needles?
Allergy injections use needles the size of an insulin syringe, much smaller than most medications. Topical anesthetics are given to numb the skin and ETAA staff are pros at making the process as smooth as possible. If getting injections is a concern, allergy drops are an option.
Is there a downside to drops?
Due to differences in absorption, patients with multiple triggers may be more suited to injections. Although allergy drops are used widely in Europe they are still not FDA approved in the U.S. Therefore it is not covered by most insurance and any costs are the patient's responsibility.