There’s a question I hear ALL THE TIME: What should I expect at the first Allergist appointment and what questions should I ask the Allergist? Of course, mamas want to be prepared and have all questions covered before the appointment. So I thought I would write a post about what I think is most important to ask, and what to expect, now that we’ve been through 5 diagnoses and too many Allergist’s appointments to count.
If you’re reading this and are not newly diagnosed, this post can help you too since there may be one or two things you may not have thought of.
What Can I Expect At The First Allergist Appointment?
First of all, make sure you’re ready with why you’re seeing the Allergist and the details of what happened. Be as specific as possible, and a written outline is awesome! Be ready to explain specifically what your kiddo ate (if you’re not sure what caused the reaction, keep and bring ingredient labels from everything that was eaten up to 2 hours before the reaction), the symptoms your child experienced (in our case I took a picture of the hives so the doctor could see), how long the symptoms took to show up, and what treatment was given by medical team (if any). Depending on the doctor, this appointment can take anywhere from 1-2 hours.
Our doctor’s office always asks us to discontinue use of antihistamines before our appointment. Double check with the Allergist’s office to see if this is true for your child too.
Be ready for a skin prick test. But don’t worry, they feel no more painful than a little pinch and they are done very quickly, so no big deal. Our doctor does them on the forearm, but I’ve heard of them on the back too. Wear short sleeves to make it easy. Our nurse called them “popping bubbles” which was really popular with our girls and made it “almost” fun for them. Bring some small toys or books to distract your child after the test because their skin may be really itchy and they shouldn’t touch the area so the doc can get accurate measurements.
Be ready to explain your child's environmental allergy symptoms and reactions, whether you have a pet, and if your child sleeps with stuffed animals. These questions will all be part of the medical history.
What Questions Should I Ask The Allergist At Our First Appointment?
1. Ask for an emergency plan. Not every doctor gives one, but they are so helpful! You can print one from Food Allergy Canada or FARE and bring it in to have your doctor review and sign. Use this plan as medical proof of a severe allergy (not a sensitivity or intolerance). Use it to show your friends, family, and school how severe the allergy is.
2. If your child had a reaction to a nut, ask about whether you have to avoid all nuts, or just certain ones. Since nuts are often processed together, you will likely need to find nuts that are not cross contaminated with other nuts, but knowing that you can eat some nuts is helpful, even if you have to be careful about getting “clean” nuts or washing them yourself.
3. Don’t worry about the numbers. In my opinion, there is no use in asking about blood work numbers. Skin and blood tests can give false positives, and everyone’s system is different. The Allergist may get skin tests and bloodwork done to establish a baseline for your child, but these numbers are not meant to be compared because they are specific to your child. Also, don’t worry about tracking those numbers or whether they will tell you how severe the allergy is. If your child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, the reaction could ALWAYS be severe (whether it is every time or not), and past reaction severity DOES NOT determine how severe the reaction will be in future. So always be ready for the possibility of anaphylaxis with an epinephrine injector.
4. Ask what anaphylaxis is and how much of the food your child needs to eat to cause anaphylaxis. Some doctors are super busy and in my opinion may not go over this well enough. They sometimes prescribe an EpiPen (or another epinephrine injector) and forget to explain when to use it and why. Anaphylaxis is the life-threatening reaction that can happen if someone is allergic to a food. Food reactions do not always turn into anaphylaxis, but it’s important to know that if a food allergy is present, anaphylaxis is always possible. Sometimes hearing this from the doctor is a little easier to believe than hearing it after the fact. So I feel like its important to talk about this with your Allergist.
5. Ask for an epinephrine trainer so you and your family can practice. Doctor’s offices usually have these to give away. You can also get them from the provider’s websites, but you usually have to order them. Keep the trainer to teach babysitters, daycares, friends and others how to use it. Just make sure to keep them separate from the REAL thing so they don’t get confused in times of an emergency.
6. If you have questions, make sure to ask!! Bring a list of questions and don’t be afraid to refer to it. NOW is your time to fully understand what’s going on. Don’t let your opportunity with the doctor pass you by, so ask, ask and ask some more.
What do you think? Is there anything else that you would recommend asking the Allergist at the first appointment? Share in the comments!