We are excited to announce the addition of allergy testing and advanced allergy treatment to our office. Starting March 19th, we will be performing skin allergy testing on Thursday afternoons for patients 4 years of age or older. In addition, we will be offering treatment with Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) for patients that qualify.
Why are we adding allergy testing?
We have been seeing an increase in the need and desire for allergy testing in both children and adults. In an effort to make this procedure simpler for patients to obtain, we decided to offer it in our office and avoid the need to see a specialist for this procedure. We believe that patients will benefit from having this simple procedure performed in a location with which they are familiar. Skin prick allergy testing is a standard procedure that is generally covered by insurance.
We will perform a standard 56 allergen test applied to the back or forearms with the potential addition of 8 more done intradermally. The procedure is simple, relatively painless and only takes a few minutes to apply. The patient is then observed for skin reactions to the allergen and changes are documented. The procedure is performed by a technician (usually a LPN) and interpreted by a provider in our office. The allergens tested are available on our website and include the most common environmental allergens. Food allergies are not tested through this test, but can be done as blood work if needed.
Who should be tested?
Allergy testing is recommended for several groups of people.
1) Patients with symptoms consistent with allergies that are not responding to simple therapies.
2) Patients with symptoms of unclear cause and need to evaluate allergies as a cause.
3) Patients with allergies who would like to know which specific allergens they are sensitive to, especially if this may lead to a change in environment (e.g. allergy to an animal).
4) Patients with known allergies who are considering immunotherapy.
5) Anyone with asthma.
6) Patients with recurrent upper respiratory symptoms such as sinusitis, ear infection or itchy ear canals.
7) Patients with Meniere’s Disease.
8) Patients with sleep disturbance.
I have allergies, now what?
If allergy testing is positive, the first line of treatment is a combination of intranasal steroid, oral non-sedating antihistamine, and/or allergy eye drops. For patients who fail this treatment and still suffer from allergies, immunotherapy is available. Patients may prefer to use immunotherapy as a first line treatment.
Immunotherapy is the application of low amounts of allergen into the system. The body gradually gets used to these allergens over time and eventually loses its allergic response. Immunotherapy has the potential to have a lifelong response to therapy. In the US, injection (shots) have been the mainstay of immunotherapy. Shots work well but are painful, require a trip to the doctor every week for 3-5 years and have a potential for anaphylaxis.
A different type of immunotherapy is becoming more mainstream. Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is the application of a liquid containing up to 10 allergens under the tongue once per day. This practice has been accepted and effective in Europe for many years and is now one of the recommended forms of immunotherapy in the United States. The obvious advantages to this therapy are they have no pain involved, are applied at home and have very low risk of side effects.
We are proud to offer SLIT in our office. The oral solution is prepared by our partner, Allergy Solutions, with the appropriate allergens. The patient is dispensed a 3 month supply and applies the drops once per day at home. The patient will follow-up in our office every 3 months to receive their new supply and assess for efficacy, tolerance and adherence.
Improvements are generally seen within 1-3 months of using SLIT. Therapy is generally continued for 4 years and may provide a lifelong cure for allergies. Only one type of SLIT is currently FDA approved (for wheat), but the expectation is that more will be approved in the years to come. Because of this, SLIT is not covered by insurance and is paid out of pocket. However, most patients are able to stop or reduce medications and this offsets the cost of the SLIT. It is also half the cost of allergy shots. Pricing is available from our office and is very reasonable.
We feel that allergy testing and treatment is a very valuable and exciting addition to our office. If you are suffering from allergies or symptoms you are not sure about, please contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss which services would be best for you.