About Your Allergies
Allergies are a complex health condition. Managing your allergies can mean more than one drug treatment. The allergy itself can affect many bodily systems. As a result, you need to go to each doctor’s appointment ready to collect as much information as possible.
Make good use of your time with your allergist or immunologist! After all, you have to manage your condition 24 hours a day, while your doctor is only seeing you for a brief time each visit.
If you’ve just been diagnosed or simply don’t yet know enough about your condition, you need to get answers to 10 basic questions from your doctor:
What are my specific allergens?
If you don’t know what you are allergic to, you will have a hard time avoiding your allergic triggers. No matter what other treatment you take for your allergy, avoidance of the allergic trigger is a first step in managing your condition.
What treatments will work for me?
You may have a number of alternatives. Some treatment options may appeal more than others, or may be less invasive or intrusive. Know what your doctor recommends.
Do I need to have a prescription? What are the alternatives to a prescription?
Prescription drugs come with a cost. There may be a less costly over-the-counter alternative. In addition, if you can make use of non-drug strategies to reduce your symptoms or your allergen exposure, you may be able to avoid the drugs. (See our article, “12 Tips For Managing Seasonal Allergies” and “Living With Food Allergies” for ideas.)
Do I have to avoid any particular herbal remedy, supplement or other over-the-counter drugs?
This is one question many people don’t know to ask. It’s important to keep in mind that with certain allergies you could actually cross-react with other things. For instance, a ragweed allergy could mean that you’ll react to melons, chamomile, honey, banana or sunflower seeds! If you have an allergy that could have cross-reactant substances, you need to know.
Will allergy shots work for my allergy?
If the answer to this question is yes, you’ll need a lot more information. Be sure to find out how often you’d need to get an injection and how long the allergist believes you would need to continue treatment.
Do I need an Epi-Pen?
If you’ve had an anaphylactic episode prior to your diagnosis, you’ll likely want an Epi-Pen. If you also have food allergies, you might want a prescription for 2! Recent studies indicate that as many as 1 in 4 people with food allergies require a second dose of epinephrine. To make it easier to have 2 doses on hand, you might want to request the new Twin-Ject device over the Epi-Pen. The Twin-Ject is exactly what the name implies: a single device with two doses of epinephrine. If you are prescribed a second dose, get instructions on when and why to take that second dose.
Do I need a MedicAlert bracelet?
MedicAlert bracelets and pendants speak for you when you can’t. If you have a severe allergy to a common drug, get one! If you ever arrived at a hospital emergency department unconscious, this alert could save your life.
What can I do to make my home as allergy-proof as possible?
The doctor may have some specialized instructions for you and your allergy. You can also check out our article on “12 Tips For Managing Seasonal Allergies”, “Living With Food Allergies” and “Managing Asthma During Allergy Season” for non-drug approaches to reducing allergens.)
I’m allergic to my pet! Now what?
Many people have given away beloved pets because of allergies. Your doctor may have some suggestions that will let you keep yours. In addition, check out our article, “Reducing Pet Allergens in Your Home”.
Are there any clinical trials for promising treatments that I qualify for?
This is a great question to ask your doctor! In some cases, new treatments are just on the horizon, and could be ideal for your allergy. When you are part of a clinical trial, you get expert monitoring of your allergies and your general health. You’ll also generally get all the aspects of the treatment protocol, including drugs, equipment and doctors visits for free. It can be well worth your time – and you may even get some monetary compensation on top of the other benefits.