5 Reasons You Should Get Tested Now For Allergies
COLUMBIA, Mo. — As spring allergy season looms, specialists at University of Missouri Health Care are encouraging individuals to get tested early for seasonal allergies.
The No. 1 reason: This winter has generally been mild, so allergy sufferers may experience symptoms as early as late February as some trees begin to bud. Spring allergy season generally begins in earnest in early to mid-March. Anyone who has not had adequate symptom control with environmental controls and medications should consider allergy testing.
“If you’re suffering from any of the common allergy symptoms — runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or itchy, watery eyes — for more than seven to 10 days, I would encourage you to get evaluated for allergies,” said Robert Zitsch, M.D., an otolaryngologist at MU Health Care and the William E. Davis professor and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the MU School of Medicine. “Many people mistake allergies for a cold, but if the symptoms persist, it’s likely that allergies are the cause.”
The No. 2 reason: If you get tested early, before allergy symptoms kick in, you won’t need to stop taking your allergy medicine.
“You need to be off of antihistamines and other allergy medications for at least five days before being tested,” said Cynthia Rose, FNP, an allergist at MU Health Care’s ENT and Allergy Center of Missouri. “If you have severe allergies, you’re not going to want to be without medication during the peak of the season. If you typically have allergies during the spring or fall each year, we recommend that you get tested now, before the allergy season is in full swing.”
The No. 3 reason: You can manage your allergies with individualized treatments.
If an individual tests positive for eight or more allergens — which many people in mid-Missouri do, Rose said — allergists can recommend over-the-counter allergy medications or prescription medications, such as allergy shots or drops to relieve the symptoms of allergy sufferers.
Allergy drops, or “sublingual immunotherapy,” contain tiny amounts of allergen extracts unique to each patient’s particular allergies, such as pollen and mold. Unlike traditional allergy shots, which require patients to receive weekly injections at their allergist’s clinic, allergy drops require no needles and can be taken at home.
The No. 4 reason: Getting tested early can help prepare you for future seasonal allergies.
“Getting tested and started on treatment now also will help manage your fall allergies,” Rose said. “Allergy drops actually change your immune system. If you’re allergic to ragweed, for example, the therapy will help you develop a resistance to the plant.”
The No. 5 reason: You can find out if your seasonal allergies are worsened by food allergies. Many times, foods can cause the same symptoms as seasonal allergies, and it’s possible that individuals can be experiencing both food and seasonal allergies.
“Some people who have seasonal pollen allergies might get an allergic reaction shortly after they eat certain foods,” Rose said. “Some fruits or raw vegetables, for example, actually can worsen your symptoms. While you’re being tested for seasonal allergies, we can run a test for food allergies as well.”
Individuals can be tested to determine what specific allergens are affecting them. Tests can be done with a simple prick of the skin, with results in about 20 minutes, or through blood work. The tests screen for four main types of allergens:
- Pollen, such as red cedar and ragweed
- Molds, both indoor and outdoor
- Dust, such as dust mites and common household dust
- Animals, such as cats and dogs
The ENT and Allergy Center of Missouri offers allergy testing on patients 3 years of age and older. To schedule an appointment, please call the ENT and Allergy Center of Missouri at (573) 817-3000. For more information, please visit www.muhealth.org/allergy.