What is an allergist?
An allergist is a medical doctor who has completed specialist training in the diagnosis and management of allergic diseases. Our doctors have completed recognized training in this specialty under the auspices of the RACP (Royal Australasian College of Physicians). This training involves a 6-year undergraduate medical degree, followed by specialist physician training through the RACP; with subspecialist training in allergy, taking a further 7 years.
Skin Prick Testing
Skin prick testing can be a useful adjunct to the clinical assessment. The testing is done as part of the consultation. A small drop of allergen is placed on the forearm and a very light, superficial prick is made through the skin. Pain is minimal; however positive reactions are associated with localized itch, which usually settles rapidly after the testing.
Skin testing is not appropriate in all circumstances.
Drug and Food Challenges
By having access to a day procedure unit at Epworth Hospital, Drug and Food Challenges (which are usually confined to public hospitals) may be performed, if appropriate.
Drug and food challenges are performed to definitively exclude allergy in a safe and controlled environment. The procedure involves the use of an IV cannula (drip) as a precaution in case emergency treatment of a systemic allergic reaction is required. Then, over a period of a few hours, the concentration of the test substance is incrementally increased and administered to the patient. Most patients will leave this procedure having been cleared of the previous supposed allergen.
Desensitisation or allergen-specific immunotherapy is the process of administering an allergen, either by injection or drops/tablet under the tongue, to reduce the allergic response to the allergen. There is significant evidence that this treatment is effective in selected individuals with allergic rhinitis and asthma.
This therapy has been shown to have lasting effects – generally for 3 years after the course of desensitisation.