Prepare for Your First Allergist Appointment

Are you planning to visit an allergist soon? If so, it can be important to know what to expect in advance. This will help you prepare for the appointment so you can get the most out of the experience.

The Need for an Allergist Visit

You probably already suspect that you have allergies, and you may even have some ideas of your biggest triggers. Perhaps you believe you're allergic to foods, pollens or molds, chemicals or other indoor substances. Nonetheless, it's always important to get a professional opinion to determine the extent of your condition and find out how best to treat it.

What to Expect from Your Allergist Visit

Your first allergist visit may take up to a few hours, since the doctor will probably need to perform some diagnostic testing to confirm your allergy causes and see exactly how your immune system reacts to them.

Please review some of the common ways that the allergist will gather this information.

  • He may ask you to provide your detailed medical history, which can be very helpful to give him an idea of your sensitivities and symptoms. Since allergies are often passed down from one generation to the next, you should also bring some notes on your family of origin's allergy history, too, to give him a brief overview.

  • The doctor will also perform a physical exam to assess your health and any existing allergy symptoms, such as irritated sinuses and nasal and chest congestion.

  • You can expect him to do a prick test to identify specific allergy causes. This is a painless procedure that consists of putting a small amount of different suspected allergens on your skin, then scratching or pricking the surface to allow them to get under the surface. If your immune system reacts to each trigger, within about 10 or 15 minutes you may experience an allergic wheal, which is raised bump that's typically surrounded by red, itchy skin.

  • In some cases, the doctor may opt to do an intradermal test by injecting a small amount of the allergen directly under your skin and watching for a reaction. This technique should always be closely supervised just in case you have a serious problem.

  • A blood test (sometimes referred to as a "RAST" test) can sometimes be used to measure the amount of allergic antibodies in your blood to specific triggers. This can confirm an allergy and can also show the degree of your allergic reaction. Blood tests can also be repeated periodically to show if your allergy is changing. (For instance, over time children may outgrow their food allergies and this can help to track their progress.)

  • Finally, if you do have food allergies, the allergist may ask you to try an elimination diet to narrow in on exactly what's causing your reaction. As the name implies, this consists of removing suspicious foods from your daily menus for a few weeks to see if your reaction disappears when the food is eliminated. Then slowly the foods are reintroduced to see if the reaction occurs again. If your allergist wants you to try this method, he'll go over the details with you during your visit and have you keep track of what happens over the specified period.

Before you Go. . .

Before your allergist visit, you'll also need to find out if any medications you're currently taking should be stopped in preparation for your appointment. This is because such things as antihistamines and antidepressants can affect the results of allergy testing. The same can be true of cold medicines, sleep aids and even antacids. Therefore, be sure to reach out to your doctor to find out how best to safely prepare for your visit. This will help you to get the most out of the time without taking any unnecessary health risks.


Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Clinic

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Food Allergy Initiative