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

ific IgE blood test provides valuable information to help determine if a patient is truly allergic to pollen, and it also helps allergists hone in on specific allergens during skin testing," Szeinbach said. People who see an allergist are almost always given a skin test. Small amounts of known allergens pollen from different plants in the case of allergic rhinitis are placed on the patient's skin. The skin is then pricked with a needle so the allergens can enter the blood stream.

If the skin reddens or swells, the patient is considered allergic to that pollen. With this kind of test, a person often must wait up to two hours to see if there is a reaction. The skin test also requires extensive training and experience to properly interpret the results, which family physicians may not have.

"The specific-IgE test requires the time it takes to draw a vial of blood," Szeinbach said. "The results can tell a physician whether or not her patient truly has an allergy. If so, she can then send that patient on to an allergist if further evaluation is warranted.

"Our findings suggest that family physicians can effectively use the specific IgE test on their patients," she said. "Managed care protocols need to be changed to allow increased use of this test. The change in practice could result in the savings of billions of dollars in healthcare costs every year."

Several years ago, Szeinbach did a study and found that nearly two out of three patients treated for allergies were not truly allergic.

"Millions of people suffer unnecessarily because they really don't have allergies," she said. "They're often prescribed medications such as antihistamines that don't help the problem, so it's important that they be correctly diagnosed in the first place."

Szeinbach conducted the study with P. Brock Williams, of the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Kansas City; Susan Kucukarslan, of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit; and

Contact: Sheryl Szeinbach
Ohio State University

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