Friday, June 4, 2010

ENT Adventures - The Allergy Test

For the next couple of blog entries, I'm going to catch up on the latest & greatest in the world of trying to make me breathe easier. I forgot to do the update of my allergy testing back at the beginning of May, so we'll start there.

I got to the ENT office, checked in, and waited my turn to be called. When I was called, the allergy nurse brought me to the furthest room in the back of the office (to which I thought - are the needles that bad that they need to put the people in the back to stifle the screams?) and sat me in a chair. She pulled out a questionnaire and asked me a series of questions: do you eat this, are you ever around that, do you have this or that pet, do you find it easier or harder to breathe at certain times of the year, etc. I answered each one and she made some notes on her sheet. When she was finished the 20 questions, she pulled out a tray of tiny beakers and said what each one was. Turning one of the needles in my direction before she put them in the tray, she suggested that I touch one to see what the test would be like. Seemed harmless enough, almost like touching the end of a sewing needle and poking yourself in the forearm. She wrote on my arm with a ballpoint pen so as to not lose track of what pricks would be what, and began the testing.

 Image from

The first round of testing was an initial screening and tested for airborne allergens such as pet dander, various pollens, and cockroach droppings (yes, seriously). She pricked my skin with 30 samples, set the timer for 10 minutes, and went on her way while we waited. I grabbed my book and after about 2 minutes noticed a few hives beginning to develop on my right arm. After 5 minutes, three of the hives had developed even more and were excruciatingly itchy. I took my eyes away from my book to see what they were - and they were the first three in the first row.

Cat dander, dust mites, and dog dander. 

There went my hopes for beige carpeting and a shih-tzu. I pretty much already knew about the first one (if you get asthma attack like symptoms when you're visiting a friend who has a cat...), was suspicious about the second, and the third was a bit of a surprise.

Oh well. When the 10 minutes was up, the allergy nurse returned and "read" my arms. She took notes on where the allergies were obvious, cleaned up the pen marks, and gave me an ice pack to relief the unbearable itching of the three huge hives on my arm. Oh sweet coldness, how I loved you in that moment.

Round two of testing was uneventful. Same pricks, but this time there were food allergens based on my normal diet placed on my skin. Just as I had thought - no food allergies. Since she tested for coffee - this was a huge relief. That would have been an absolute disaster.

Round three was more pricking with the airborne allergens, but this time with a bigger needle right under the first layer of skin on a select few. She drew up 10 vials to double check my pollen allergies (we narrowed it down to just tree pollen, so now were trying to see WHICH trees), some molds, and just incase it was a false negative - let's throw some more mouse & cockroach droppings in (why not, right). That round of testing showed that I am allergic to maple & hickory pollen as well as one or two kinds of mold. Still no mice & cockroaches...
No, Mr. Cockroach. I am not allergic to your crap. (Image found on

Then it was time for the last round. This set of pricks under the skin was just to see the severity of the maple & hickory pollen allergies as well as narrowing down the mold. She made more notes on my file, muted the Food Network (yes, I was watching TV... at that point I had given up on reading, TV was a better distraction to the itching), and gave me an education lesson on avoiding dust mite allergies. I walked out of there that afternoon a little bit less afraid of needles and a little more knowledgeable about how to manage my allergies. I go back in for a follow-up in August to see how I'm coping with some changes we'll be making, and if needed we'll discuss any alternatives to treating my allergies.

All in all, it was a great appointment. I geared myself up for the next step - turbinate reduction.

1 comment:

SilverNeurotic said...

Bichons are hypoallergenic (and fairly small)-if you were really hoping for a dog when you move.

I'm very glad I don't have allergies, I don't think I could handle that test.