For U.S. Residents only

Importance of a Proper Diagnosis

Knowing what you are allergic to is essential to creating an effective treatment plan to relieve your symptoms, but just as important is knowing if allergy is even playing a role in your symptoms. 

  •           Not all symptoms of runny, itchy and stuffy nose are allergy
  •           Not all symptoms of itchy, red and watery eyes are allergy
  •           Not all symptoms of cough, wheeze and shortness of breath are asthma that can be triggered by allergy
  •           Not all symptoms related to ingesting food are allergy
  •           Not all symptoms related to a reaction from a drug are allergy
  •           Not all symptoms related to being stung by a bee are allergy

Is it possible that your nasal symptoms are not caused by allergy?  If so, what else can cause these familiar symptoms?  All particles in the air are not allergens (a substance that causes an allergic response by activating the immune system), so nasal symptoms to perfume or tobacco smoke may cause sneezing or a runny nose but the diagnosis is non allergic nasal rhinitis (nasal inflammation versus allergic rhinitis).  Other causes for nasal symptoms that are not allergy include: an infection, medications for blood pressure and others, abnormal structure of your nose like a deviated septum, pregnancy, and certain systemic diseases like Lupus or Sarcoidosis. 

Is it possible that your eye symptoms are not caused by allergy?  If so, what else can cause these familiar symptoms?  As with your nose, all particles in the air are not allergens so certain substances can trigger eye symptoms and not be allergy. So, perfume or tobacco smoke can affect the eyes just like they do the nose and not be allergy.  Other causes for eye symptoms may be from an infection, dry eye or a reaction to your contact lens.

Is it possible that your chest symptoms are not asthma caused by allergy?  If so, what else can cause these familiar symptoms?  First, if a diagnosis of asthma is made, a small percentage of children and a larger percentage of adults do not have allergens as a trigger. But, the diagnosis may not even be asthma.  There are many respiratory problems of the nose, throat and chest that can cause cough and wheeze (a whistling sound when you breathe out). To name a few:  infections of any part of the respiratory tract, obesity, reflux, pressure on the airways outside the chest like a growth in the neck area and even heart disease otherwise known as cardiac asthma.

Is it possible that the reaction from a food is not allergy?  If so, what else can cause these familiar symptoms?  As with airborne substances, certain foods can act on our digestive track or the rest of our body and not be allergens.  For example, caffeine in coffee or tea may make our hearts race but this is not allergy but rather a chemical (caffeine) that excites the heart.  Another example is lactose intolerance: our gut cannot digest this sugar (lactose) and it causes abdominal cramping and gas.  Not an allergy.

Is it possible that the reaction to a medication is not allergy? If so, what else can cause these familiar symptoms?  Drugs too can cause non allergic reactions and it is important to determine if the adverse event from a drug was allergic or not.  Allergic reactions to drugs are very clearly defined by the medical profession and there is a long list of adverse reaction to medicines, of which most are not allergic.

Once it has been determined that allergy may be playing a role in your symptoms allergy testing can be used to confirm the involvement of certain allergens.  This confirmation will help your physician direct you to the proper therapy such as avoiding the allergen(s) or reducing your sensitivity to the allergen(s) by administering allergy shots (see section on allergy shots or Immunotherapy).

 

A proper diagnosis of your condition is important so the appropriate therapy can be instituted to relieve your discomfort.  The sooner the correct diagnosis is made and the triggers identified in the case of allergy, the sooner you can be on the path to relief.