Allergy Care Starts with Getting to Know Our Patients
Our allergy care patients usually come to us because they are experiencing symptoms like itchy eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing, or food / drug sensitivity. Before we jump into testing, we start by listening to our patients first. This approach allows us to build a better relationship with our patients, because we can get to know their personalities, sensitivities, and needs. Once we understand the person and the troubles they are having, we can then cater our testing and treatment recommendations to them. This results in better experiences and outcomes for our patients.
The first step in our allergy testing is gathering the patient's history. If they are having or have had reactions to substances in the past, that can be a strong indicator of an allergy problem. From there, the most common testing that we do for allergies is skin testing. Skin tests, also called skin prick tests or scratch tests, are a quick and effective way of screening for sensitivity to multiple allergens at once. Skin tests are very accurate for both environmental (dust, pollen, pet dander) and food allergies. For food allergies, we also often include blood tests because they are equally accurate, and they provide additional helpful information. Using these tests combined with your medical history, we can identify a variety substances that may be causing problems through contact, inhalation, or consumption. Depending on one's situation, we may do additional testing such as a breathing test or a CT scan of the sinuses. We perform normal breathing tests called pulmonary function tests, which measure airway caliber. We also provide more specialized tests like nitric oxide for inflammation and methacholine challenges to evaluate mild asthma. These tests are described in greater detail on our Asthma Testing and Treatment page.
Treating allergies usually consists of a combination of three therapy approaches: avoidance / reduced exposure, medication (when appropriate), and desensitization / immunotherapy.
Avoidance / Reduced Exposure
The easiest and least expensive way to manage allergies is to avoid the allergen. Avoidance usually means not eating certain foods, choosing the right kind of pet, or staying out of areas that have a higher concentration of an offending substance. In cases where avoidance isn't possible, reducing exposure is the next best thing. For example, with mold or mite allergies, one can clean more thoroughly and more frequently, and use products like allergy-proof mattress and boxspring covers and air purifiers.
Allergy medicines can help a patient manage symptoms where avoidance isn't possible. Antihistamines block histamine, which helps to treat sneezing, redness, itching, and swelling. Decongestants reduce nasal congestion and post-nasal drip. Nasal steroids can do all of the above. Eye drops coat allergy cells and can also block histamine. Sometimes topical or oral steroids are used as a more potent anti-inflammatory. It's not unusual to use a combinations of these medicines.
Nasal sprays can be used to deliver steroids and antihistamines. There are also nasal sprays that deaden nerve endings to reduce mucus production.
However, allergy medicines aren't right for all patients nor for all types of allergies.
Desensitization / Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy involves being exposed to a small, manageable amount of an allergen, and increasing this exposure over time so that the body can develop a resistance to it. This is most commonly delivered in the form of allergy shots. The length and frequency of this treatment depends on the severity of the allergy being treated.
NOTE: About 15% of allergy sufferers also have asthma.
Should I Schedule an Appointment with an Allergist?
If any of the following apply to you, you should definitely schedule an appointment with an allergist:
- Allergy-related symptoms are making you miserable.
- You have asthma or regular sinus troubles.
- Over-the-counter medications aren't helping.
- You have serious allergies / anaphylaxis or severe asthma.
- You have bad reactions to certain foods or drugs.
- You have hives, eczema, or other skin issues and over-the-counter medicines don't help.
Fishman Allergy / Asthma / ENT provides allergy care, testing, and treatment for all ages: infants, children, teenagers, adults (including pregnant women), and seniors.
Our Allergists Serve Washington DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Beyond!
Fishman Allergy / Asthma / ENT has treated patients from Washington DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and beyond since 1989. Our motto is "Concern, Care, and Comfort". We love our patients, and our specialists treat them with genuine care and concern. In addition to treating patients who find us directly, our outpatient practice is also a referral center.
Allergy, asthma, and ENT / ear nose throat issues often overlap with each other, and we are able to diagnosis and treat for all three in a single location. We have state-of-the-art technology, some of which is only available in a referral center like ours. We have our own sinus CT scan and rhinoscopy equipment, which results in same-day diagnosis and treatment. We can provide advanced therapy medications in office like anti-inflammatories for asthma and desensitization / immunotherapy.