Ask the Allergist: Allergy Retesting
Q: I’ve been tested twice for allergies; the last time was two years ago. My allergist wants to retest me. How often do I need to be retested for allergies?
Bryan Martin, DO: Two years between allergy tests is reasonable – there are no limitations to the frequency of testing. But you can talk with your allergist about whether allergy retesting is necessary.
Allergists will typically recommend retesting for symptomatic or therapeutic reasons.
If you’re on an allergy medication and allergen avoidance plan for two years, and your symptoms recently returned or worsened, then these may be reasons to retest.
Perhaps you have symptoms in a new season that you didn’t have before? Your allergist may suspect there is a new allergy that wasn’t identified on the initial tests. Allergies are not static – studies show people can gain new allergies over time.
Allergy treatment should begin with an avoidance plan – and allergy testing will drive that plan. Just because we knew exactly what you were allergic to two years ago doesn’t mean we know everything you’re allergic to today.
Based on how your medications are working or your history of symptoms, your allergist may recommend immunotherapy, or allergy shots that will help your body build tolerance to your allergens. This is typically a 3- to 5-year time commitment.
In that case, your allergist will want to retest you to confirm your allergens and that the immunotherapy plan is appropriate.
At my practice, a patient may come in with springtime allergies but testing reveals allergies to cats, house dust mites and mold. The patient feels symptoms all of the time, but especially during springtime. So feeling lousy becomes baseline.
Those are the people who need year-round treatment, even though they came in seeking care for seasonal symptoms. After treatment, many of these patients come back to me and say, ”You mean, this is how I’m supposed to feel all the time?”
Bryan Martin, DO, FACAAI, is President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).
Have a medical question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Ask the Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Network, 8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 260, Vienna, VA 22182.
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