What is an allergy and what causes it?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction to a substance that the immune system inappropriately perceives as a threat and therefore attacks as harmful. This could be dust mites, mould spores, animal dandruff, pollen, nuts, fish, eggs, dairies, insects i.e. bees or wasp venom, natural chemicals in foods or medication.
What are the most common allergic reactions?
Common allergic reactions are nasal/eye symptoms i.e. sneezing, congestion, sore weeping eye, sometimes this is seasonal and is likely to be hay fever, if it is continual it is called perennial rhinitis. Breathing difficulties, continual coughing often diagnosed as asthma. Itchy sore skin sometimes this is diagnosed as eczema or dermatitis. Raised red lumps or patches on skin often called hives or urticaria. Stomach symptoms i.e. nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps can be caused by food allergy. Please note there is a difference between food allergy and food intolerance. See Food Allergy and Food Intolerance -Which? on our website.
The most serious reaction is anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. It can be manifest by one or more of the following symptoms: throat or mouth swelling, difficulty in swallowing or speaking, severe asthma, collapse due to drop in blood pressure, severe abdominal pain and nausea or vomiting and others.
How can an allergy be diagnosed?
Initially a detailed medical history is taken. Dependent on the history given, skin prick tests and/or IgE blood tests will be carried out which are very reliable.
What is the treatment for allergies?
Once the allergen has been identified then advice on the appropriate form of treatment can be given. For anaphylatic reactions carrying an Epipen is recommended. For less severe reactions avoidance of the allergen responsible for the symptoms is recommended. When avoidance is difficult or impossible, i.e. hay fever or house dust allergy then we offer Immunotherapy in the form of Enzyme Potentiated Desensitisation, Neutralisation or Sub-lingual immunotherapy (SLIT).
What is Immunotherapy/Desensitisation?
This is a safe method of treatment giving small amounts of the substance that you have reacted to, slowly building your immunity so that the immune system recognises the substance as safe and no longer as a threat. More information about these methods of Immunotherapy can be found under Treatments on our website.
Can I be cured of my allergy?
Allergic reactions can change during our life-time. Often it is found that people grow out of hay fever. Children may have eczema as babes and develop asthma later on. Babies often have hives due to cow's milk but will be able to tolerate it later in life.
We do not claim to offer a "cure" however, for those allergies which persist, effective densensitisation treatment can mean you can be symptom free, no longer suffering frequent asthma attacks, eczema flare ups or reactions to ingredients commonly found in foods. Some of our clients are advised to phase out the therapy and they continue enjoying acquired immunity.
Is the treatment available on the NHS?
For some allergens skin prick tests and patch testing are available for diagnosis on the NHS, however, as we have been made aware by the media, allergy services are under provided for in the UK and treatment of those allergies are often not available.
We are a private clinic. Some clients, with the support of their GP and Primary Care Trusts, do get funding by the NHS for our treatment. This is usually for serious allergies, varies from area to area but the applications often take months to be considered.
How much will it cost?
We offer reduced consultations and testing for clients who want just a single item testing, i.e. if someone is thinking of getting a cat and want to know if their child has an allergy, or suspect a shellfish allergy but want to confirm. The cost of the half hour consultation including Skin Prick Test is £95.00. However, as in the case of a suspected nut allergy, we cannot test with Skin Prick Tests due to the risk of a reaction so a blood test will need to be carried out, the costs will be modified accordingly. Usually it is £40.00 per single item.
For more complex allergy diagnosis, the initial consultation (approx 1 hr) is £140-£150 depending on which clinic you attend. Skin prick tests are £80.00, charged pro rata if we only test for a few items. The IgE blood test costs £170.00 for 20 inhalants, £170.00 for 20 foods and £170.00 for 20 foods and inhalants.
The cost of treatment will depend on the allergy/ies identified and the method and duration of treatment.