Specific test key to determine whether or not allergy symptoms are really allergy-related

COLUMBUS, Ohio Many people with allergy-like symptoms could get the test they need, and the right treatments for their symptoms, from their primary care physician if managed care practice guidelines encouraged the use of the test.

The savings nationally might equal the costs of an additional doctor's visit to a specialist for more than 20 million Americans. A typical charge for an office visit to an allergy specialist is around $100, about twice the cost of a visit to a family doctor.

A new study suggests that family physicians could better serve their patients with symptoms related to hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, by using a definitive blood test to screen for actual allergies. The test can easily be administered in a physician's office, and the test results are easy to interpret.

Instead of testing for allergies, most family physicians are likely to prescribe medications or suggest that their patients use over-the-counter drugs to help control suspected allergy symptoms, said Sheryl Szeinbach, the study's lead author and a professor of pharmacy practice and administration at Ohio State University. And most people with allergy symptoms first seek help from their family doctor.

With hay fever season nearly upon us, anywhere from 20 to 50 million Americans will develop allergic rhinitis. Symptoms include red and watery eyes, irritated nasal passages, a runny nose and sneezing and coughing. Having a definitive diagnosis is key to treatment, Szeinbach said.

"Family physicians need to use a blood test that specifically tests for the allergens that trigger allergic rhinitis," she said, adding that some doctors already use blood testing. "Knowing whether or not allergy-like symptoms are actually caused by an allergy is key for determining the appropriate course of treatment."

Szeinbach is referring to a blood test that evaluates the reaction of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) to specific allergens, such as pollen from grass and t

Contact: Sheryl Szeinbach
Ohio State University

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