In the UK 20 million people suffer from at least one allergy. According to data from National charity Allergy UK the number of people who are affected by an allergy is increasing by 5% every year. A staggering 18 million people in the UK have hay fever. Allergy symptoms are similar to that of the common cold. Hay fever can affect the eyes, nose and chest and common symptoms blocked nose, runny nose and itchy eyes. Fatigue, trouble sleeping and concentration can be effects of suffering from hay fever.
How is hay fever diagnosed?
When you see a doctor or a nurse regarding hay fever they will take a history and may perform a skin prick or blood test to confirm the history. It is important to know that an allergy test alone is not enough for an accurate diagnosis. The results of the test always need to be connected to your clinical information.
What is a history?
This is one of the most important instruments your doctor will use to diagnose your allergy. Your doctor or nurse will ask a series of questions to understand more information about your symptoms. Questions you could be asked include:
Do you suffer from symptoms in the morning or during the night?
Do you only suffer from symptoms when you are outdoors or when at home?
Which time of the year do you suffer most?
How long have you been suffering and how does it affect your life?
You may also have asked about your family history of allergy as this increases the chances of you developing the condition.
Skin Prick Test (SPT)
Allergy tests should be performed by an experienced doctor or nurse in a hospital setting. The most commonly used tests are skin prick tests or blood tests.
A skin prick test pricks a small amount of liquid (containing an allergen such as grass or house dust mites) onto the skin which can cause a small, local reaction in the form of a bump. Your skin can itch or turn red.
It is important that you do not take anti-histamines for at least 48 hours before the test as these can affect the results of the test.
Allergies also can be diagnosed with a blood test which determines the level of a protein called IgE in your blood. The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis.
What happens if I am diagnosed?
If you are diagnosed with an allergy you will be given some advice on how to manage your condition. You may also be prescribed medication; it is important that you know how to take your medication correctly as this will have affect its effectiveness.