Let’s talk allergist appointments for food allergy
It can be a long and anxious wait to see a clinical immunology/allergy specialist about a suspected allergic reaction. Sometimes when you walk out of the appointment you think of all the questions you should have asked. This is very normal. It can be an overwhelming experience to finally be able to speak with an allergist about your or your child’s condition.
It is important to be well prepared for your appointment. Here are some useful tips:
- Take the referral from your GP.
- If you have a hospital discharge summary, take it with you.
Have some written notes about the reaction:
- when was it?
- what was eaten? Do you have packaging, or any of the food left?
- how much was eaten?
- what was the person having the reaction doing at the time?
- what were the symptoms?
- how long did the symptoms take to improve?
- what medications (including over-the-counter and natural remedies) was the person taking at the time?
- what treatment was given?
- If you have photos of a reaction, take them with you.
Consider calling ahead to ask if the clinic wants you to bring in any of a suspected food allergen so they can skin-prick test you with it.
Be aware that with most skin-prick testing you should not have antihistamine (eg: Zyrtec, Telfast, Claratyne) for at least 3 days prior to the appointment (and sometimes longer). Check with the clinic.
Write down any questions you might like to ask about allergy management, such as:
- Should I always have 2 adrenaline injectors with me?
- What should I do if I accidentally eat my allergen but have no (or only mild) symptoms?
- Will this allergy go away over time?
- Can I eat out?
- Do I need to avoid products with precautionary allergen labelling for my allergen?
- Is there immunotherapy or other treatment available for my food allergy?
- Do I need to remove the allergen from my house?
- Can I travel overseas?
- Can I have a reaction from smelling my allergen?
- Will my next reaction be worse than the last reaction?
- Will I have a serious reaction if I get some of my allergen on my skin?
- How can I improve my asthma or hay fever management?
- Should I see a dietitian to make sure my diet is giving me the nutrition I need?
Consider discussing your anxiety about your or your child’s allergy.
If you have reacted to something other than food, such as a bee sting, you will need to be prepared to answer similar questions. The doctor may ask if you are sure it was a bee that stung you, the circumstances of the sting, and whether you have been stung before.
To help you prepare, ASCIA has a useful form that you can complete before your allergist visit.
This question builder from Healthdirect can help you prepare for a medical appointment by creating a list of questions to ask your doctor (it is not allergy-specific). Print or email the list so it is handy to take to your appointment. This preparation will help you get more out of the time with your doctor and help you to remember everything you want to ask.
What you can expect at the appointment
The doctor will most likely diagnose your allergy by taking a full history of what happened when you had your reaction and by doing skin-prick tests or blood tests. See this information from ASCIA about how diagnosis of allergies works.
The allergist may decide that you need to be prescribed an adrenaline injector (such as Anapen® or EpiPen®). You will be given an ASCIA Action Plan for Anaphylaxis which should be carried with the adrenaline injector. The plan guides you through what to do if you have an allergic reaction.
If the allergist decides that you do not need an adrenaline injector because the risk of anaphylaxis is low, you will most likely be given a green ASCIA Action Plan for Allergic Reactions so you know what to do if you have another allergic reaction.