When should I see a doctor about my allergies?

If you're part of the 10 to 30 percent of people who have allergy symptoms, you may want to know whether you should see an allergist (and find out what an allergist can do for you). You may have questions, including whether you have an allergy or a cold, a food allergy or a food sensitivity, or even a general desire to understand the symptoms of allergy, asthma and inflamation.

Your primary care physician may not be your best source for the most thorough information about allergies and asthma, for the following reasons:

  • A potential lack of formal training. Did you know that many pediatric, family practice and internal medicine programs don’t require allergy/asthma rotations during training?
  • They may not be up to date with current allergy/asthma treatments and they might be recommending older treatment options.

Allergy is a complicated specialty, and an allergist will help you to get the right medical care.

Each person is different in regards to his or her comfort level in dealing with symptoms of allergies and how long the symptoms last. When your allergy symptoms become noticeable and start to impact your quality of life, it is time to see your doctor.

When a person's allergies are not easily controlled with over the counter medications and avoidance measures, this would be an appropriate time to see an allergist. Also when your quality of life is being effected and it interferes with daily activities, work or sleep you should also see an allergist for an evaluation.

This varies from person to person. Some people can get relief with simple over-the-counter medication, like an oral antihistamine. For people who want relief but would rather steer clear of medication, allergists can offer allergy shots. That’d be a good reason to see a specialist. You need to talk to an allergist when over-the-counter medications fail and your symptoms are limiting you in a negative way (like you're avoiding going outside). 

If your allergy symptoms interfere with your daily activities, you have congestion that lasts more than 2 weeks, or your current treatment is not providing relief, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor.

Before your appointment, make a list of your symptoms, including when you experience them and when you don't as well as what works to relieve them and what doesn't.

At your appointment for your allergy symptoms, you can expect your doctor to:

  • Ask about your symptoms, medical history, and any family history of allergies or asthma
  • Ask about medications you're taking
  • Check your nose, eyes, ears, and throat
  • Check your lungs by listening to your breathing
  • Check your skin for rashes

If you and your doctor suspect seasonal allergies or allergic asthma is at work, you may choose to try over-the-counter or prescription medications to relieve your symptoms. Your doctor may also suggest allergy testing to gather more information or may refer you to a specialist (allergist/immunologist).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.