Each year more than 50 million Americans are dealing with several types of allergies.
Allergies have become the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in America, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
This makes allergy care an important step for those seeking treatment and diagnosis. Dr. Kathryn Edwards, an allergist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases and skin conditions has been an allergist for six years.
She is out of the Becker ENT Center and rotates between there Princeton and Robbinsville offices.
“Typically we like to preform skin testing as the quickest and most sensitive way to evaluate for various allergies,” Edwards said. “The skin test is like a prick or a scratch test. We are scratching the surface of the skin with various allergenic substances to asses for a reaction. There is a blood test you can do but it takes longer to get the results and costs more to the patient through insurance.”
She said the skin test takes about 15-20 minutes to get the results back.
“Most people especially this time of year are coming in for seasonal or perennial type allergens. The pollens, pets, mold and dust types. Based on the patient’s history we will determine if they need testing,” Edwards said.
Edwards says the top three allergies she deals with are from seasonal, drug and food. Skin tests and blood tests are the most common tests she uses to determine a patient’s allergy.
“Not everything can be tested. Certain drugs cannot be tested for drug allergies,” she said. “There is only one FDA approved test for drugs, which is the penicillin test. For the most part determining drug allergies is based on the patient’s history. So we have them come to the clinic and give them a dose of the drug they are worried about and then watch them afterwards.”
There are treatments Edwards provides for patients dealing with seasonal, drug and food allergies.
“For seasonal and perennial allergies avoidance is one if possible, it is only really possible if you have a pet allergy, medication and then allergy shots,” she said. “Allergy shots are our final step if patients are not responding to the other treatments. For drug allergies if we can we will do penicillin testing for an allergy, avoidance or alternative options are next if the results from the test are negative. In a hospital setting we can desensitize them to the drug by giving them very small increasing doses till their body kind of tolerates it. Food allergy treatment is typically avoidance, EpiPen or the epi-auto injector.”
Edwards said that prior to an appointment with an allergist an individual should write down if there is a pattern associated with their symptoms.
“Allergies should follow a pattern whether they are seasonal, food and drug allergies. Drug allergies can be more complicated. The more detail that is provided, the more helpful it is to determine the evaluation and whether that drug is the cause,” she said.
Edwards said she thinks it is important for people to get checked by an allergist if they are feeling the effects of allergy symptoms.
“If it is something you are not completely sure about, avoiding something for a long period of time especially with children can only do more harm than good,” she said. “I think if you are not certain it is especially important for you to get checked out. If you want to tailor your treatment to whatever allergy you have it is nice to know exactly what you are treating and not just blatantly throwing medicines at it.”