With spring around the corner, it’s an excellent time to come up with a plan to stay on top of your allergies. In British Columbia, outdoor allergens are abundant from February through October. Tree pollen allergies predominate in spring, grasses in the summer, ragweed and other weeds in the fall. Indoor allergens may be present all year, such as dust mites, cat and dog dander, and moulds.
What are some common allergy symptoms and associated concerns?
- Brain fog
- Itchy throat, eyes or skin
- Watery eyes
- Runny or congested nose
What options are available for assessing and addressing allergies?
Allergy assessment begins with a detailed history and any non-invasive physical exams that may be needed. From there, your ND will discuss additional assessment options based on your individual needs and concerns. One must keep in mind that each type of assessment bears a small margin of error that can vary to some degree (which is true of every kind of testing), but each provides a fairly robust level of clinical confidence, especially in conjunction with a patient’s history.
- Scratch testing: your ND applies drops of allergen solutions to the skin on your arm, and uses a plastic tool to gently scratch the skin under each drop (the skin is not broken). The development of red, histamine-mediated skin reactions is considered a positive result for the presence of allergies. At Sage this testing is available for outdoor and indoor environmental allergens. Scratch testing has long been a standard method of assessment used by allergists and NDs alike prior to initiating sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).
- SLIT: this allergy treatment involves taking drops of a dilute solution of allergens. The drops can be taken annually during allergy season, but are best taken year-round to maintain momentum with the process of developing a lasting immune tolerance. It may take 2-5 years to develop full, lasting tolerance, addressing the underlying immune response. This is advantageous, as although taking anti-histamine medications or supplements helps to alleviate symptoms, the effects are very temporary.
- NEW: Environmental allergy blood testing (e.g. “AllerDetect” test): your ND swabs and pricks the side of your finger to produce small drops of blood that are applied to special blotting paper for sample collection, which is then sent to a lab for testing. Available test panels include environmental allergens (e.g. grasses, pollens, moulds, insect venom e.g. bee stings), and food panels of up to 88 different foods are available as well. The test results reveal the type and severity of the immune system’s reaction, helping to differentiate between true allergy and sensitivity (in physiological terms, IgE and IgG-mediated reactions, respectively). You won’t find this test commonly used by allergists because it is not covered by MSP, but it is available through naturopathic doctors. It can be done in lieu of scratch testing prior to initiating SLIT therapy and provides more precise insight into the type and degree of immune reactions. It is also a helpful way to monitor the efficacy of SLIT, providing insight into the needed duration of treatment, thereby potentially saving money for the cost of SLIT in the longer-term.
- Applied kinesiology biofeedback analysis (available at our Victoria location through Dr. Taitt): this non-invasive method is a useful, inexpensive and fast option to help pinpoint which environmental stressors (as well as foods) may be problematic. It is a good option when the distinction between a true allergy and a sensitivity (each involving different types of immune responses) is not essential. It is therefore not typically used as a precursor to SLIT therapy but can be followed by a bio-energetic intolerance elimination (BIE) session, which involves stimulation of acupuncture points with a small electric probe (needle-less and pain-free), potentially to help the body learn to recognize environmental or food stressors.
- Note that while no funding has been made available for research on applied kinesiology for environmental allergies, it has been studied in the context of food allergies and sensitivities. When compared to a blood test looking for both IgE and IgG-mediated immune reactions (true allergies as well as sensitivities), it was found that the blood test confirmed 19 out of 21 (90.5% of) foods suspected as stressors based on applied kinesiology.
Your naturopathic doctor will also provide further guidance as needed to address underlying factors that may be contributing to your reactivity, such as stress, diet, adrenal health, gut health, and supporting your organs of elimination. Recommendations may also be made for lifestyle and home adjustments that can be made, and which anti-histamine medications and/or natural supplement options are available for patients to choose from to help alleviate symptoms quickly.
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Des Roches A, et al. Immunotherapy with a standardized Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus extract: specific immunotherapy prevents the onset of new sensitizations in children. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997 April;99(4):450-453. DOI:10.1016/s0091-6749(97)70069-1
Jacobsen et al. Allergen-specific immunotherapy provides immediate, long-term and preventive clinical effects in children and adults: the effects of immunotherapy can be categorised by level of benefit -the centenary of allergen specific subcutaneous immunotherapy. Clinical and Translational Allergy 2012 2:8. Accessed January 22, 2020. DOI: 10.1186/2045-7022-2-8.
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