The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology offers tips to help keep away the springtime sniffles.

Allergies and their symptoms bring their misery from a variety of sources that are a part of our daily lives. These substances are known as allergens and can trigger an allergic reaction with symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, stomach lining or on the skin. In addition, our body’s reaction to these allergens can produce asthma symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), the most common allergens are:

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Food
  • Insect stings
  • Animal dander
  • Mold
  • Medications
  • Latex

When a person with allergies is exposed to these substances, the immune system treats them as invading organisms and overreacts by generating antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE). An allergic reaction occurs when these antibodies reach cells that release histamine and other chemicals in the body.

Diagnosing allergies

While allergies can often be mistaken for a common cold, AAAAI lists a number of persistent symptoms that indicate it’s time to get tested:

  • Respiratory conditions such as coughing; sneezing; itchy or watery eyes, nose or throat; nasal/chest congestion; runny nose; or wheezing
  • Skin reactions like itchiness or eczema
  • Abdominal complications such as vomiting or cramping and diarrhea that recur after eating certain foods
  • Severe reactions to insect stings (other than swelling at the site of the sting)
  • Anaphylaxis that impacts several parts of the body at the same time

Types of allergy tests

AAAAI details a number of different tests that are available to help identify and diagnose your allergies:

Skin Tests

The most common test for allergies, skin tests are relatively painless and involve pricking the surface of the skin to place tiny amounts of specific allergens. A small bit of swelling within around 20 minutes indicates that you are allergic to the particular substance(s).

Challenge Tests

Performed mainly with potential medication or food allergies, challenge tests involve a tiny amount of an allergen inhaled or taken by mouth. An allergist or physician should be present to supervise this testing.

Blood Tests

IgE blood tests (available at Sam’s Club monthly health screenings) involve drawing blood and testing it in a lab by adding allergens to measure the amount of antibodies that are produced to combat them. These tests are usually performed when a skin condition or medication might potentially interfere with skin testing.

When these tests are combined with a physical examination and medical history shared with your doctor, allergies can be easily managed before they flare up. Identifying what your allergic to is the first step in developing a treatment plan that can reduce or eliminate the symptoms associated with your specific allergies.