Allergy Testing and Treatment
What are allergies?
Every time you open your mouth or inhale, tiny particles from the environment that are floating in the air can get into your nose and lungs. Normally, the immune system only reacts to bad particles to protect the body against things that are harmful, such as bacteria and viruses. But in some people, immune system over-reacts to harmless particles (such as tree pollen or dust ) that it thinks are a threat and attack them, causing the symptoms of allergies. These particles are called allergens, and they cause allergic reactions such as a stuffy/runny nose, sneezing, itchy/watery eyes, or in severe cases, cough and wheezing. Additionally, frequent episodes of ear infections, sinus infections and bronchitis could be a sign of allergies.
How can I be tested for allergies?
Either skin or blood testing can be used to test for allergies. Skin testing checks actual reaction to allergen, and the results can be used to prepare treatment. We will test you for 40 different respiratory allergens common to Texas, by gently scratching your forearms using a plastic device dipped in allergen. Blood testing tests whether your immune system is “revved up” against certain allergens, and it would not show allergy if you have not been recently exposed to things that your allergen.
How can allergies be treated?
Avoiding allergens is effective in decreasing allergy symptoms, but may not be possible. A variety of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, nasal steroid sprays, anti-leukotrienes, and oral steroids (short-term only) can be used to treat allergies. If the medications do not provide desired relief, Allergy Immunotherapy (AIT) would be the next step.
What is allergy immunotherapy (AIT)?
AIT slowly trains the immune system to be less sensitive to allergens, so that it doesn’t respond too strongly to them. This is done by introducing tiny amounts of the allergen to the body over time, slowly getting the immune system used to the allergen. Then, when the body is exposed to the allergen during normal day-to-day activity, the immune system doesn’t try to attack it. This can mean you or your family member may have fewer allergy symptoms. Allergy Immunotherapy has been successfully and safely used for over 100 years.
How is immunotherapy administered?
There are two methods of administering immunotherapy: injection and sublingual. Either one is acceptable, but injection have been around much longer than the sublingual form. Injections are given by the patients themselves 3 times per week in the thigh or abdomen with a very small needle. Sublingual involves spraying liquid under the tongue, also 3 times per week. The first administration of the therapy is done in the doctor’s office, and then the patients administers the immunotherapy by themselves. The dosage is increased slowly – every 3 months – and every time dose is increased, the first dose is given at the doctor’s office. Immunotherapy is administered in this fashion for 2-3 years, after which maintenance phase is started, during which allergens are administered once every 2-4 weeks.
Does insurance cover allergy testing and treatment? What is the cost?
Most insurance plans cover testing and Immunotherapy treatment. However, if you have deductible that you have not met, then cost of testing and immunotherapy will go toward meeting the deductible, and these cost will have to be paid out of pocket. Typical cost for testing is around $300, and for treatment for 1 year is $2,000-$3,000. If you have met the deductible for the year, then most or all of the cost will be covered by the insurance.
How effective is Immunotherapy? How fast does it work?
Immunotherapy is generally very effective in reducing allergy symptoms. Normally, the symptoms begin to subside after 6-12 months of treatment. The reasons that immunotherapy would not work would be (1) if allergen dosing is inadequate or inconsistent, (2) exposure to non-allergic triggers, such as tobacco smoke (3) allergens were missed during the initial testing, (4) very high levels of allergen in the environment.
Is immunotherapy safe?
Serious reaction to immunotherapy are rare. To further decrease the risk, each increase in allergen dosing is done at doctor’s office, so that patients can be observed for 30 minutes for serious reactions such as swelling of the throat, chest tightness, and dizziness. These kind of reactions are rare, and more typical reactions are localized redness and swelling at the injection site.
Please call our office at 972-792-7777 to schedule allergy testing, or to ask any questions about it.
Pure Spring Medical
660 N Central Expy, Ste 640
Plano, Texas 75074