Since the coronavirus pandemic began, many Americans have canceled or postponed non-emergency doctor visits. At first, practices were temporarily closed, but later patients avoided visits out of fear of exposure to COVID-19.
In a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll from May of this year, nearly half (48%) of respondents said that they or someone in their household had postponed or skipped medical care because of the pandemic. Perhaps not surprisingly, 11% of adults overall reported that their or their family member’s health condition had worsened due to delaying or canceling medical appointments. If you or your child suffers from a chronic condition like allergies or asthma, it is likely you could experience a further decline in your health and well-being by continuing to put off visiting your allergist.
If you have allergies and asthma, you need to have your medications and your overall health monitored carefully — and regularly — by an allergist to keep symptoms under control. Allergists are specially trained to help patients manage these conditions effectively, so it’s vital to keep up regular visits to maintain the best possible health outcomes.
Health and safety procedures
If you’re one of the many Americans who haven’t kept up with appointments out of concern for exposure to COVID-19, you can be reassured by the strict safety protocols being implemented by allergists’ offices around the country to protect their patients, as well as their staff.
“Our first priority as allergists is keeping all our patients and staff safe from COVID-19, while at the same time keeping patients’ allergies and asthma under control,” says J. Allen Meadows, M.D., president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “When you come to the office, know that your allergist has put protocols in place to make your visit both comfortable and safe.”
Here are just some of the safety practices being employed by allergists:
- Virtual visits for consultations when possible
- Mandatory mask wearing by all patients, visitors and staff
- Social distancing procedures throughout the office
- Extra time between patients for cleaning and disinfection
- Remote check-in at arrival, so patients can wait in their cars until the doctor is ready to see them instead of in a waiting room
- Some services — such as biologic shots — can be administered at patients’ vehicles outside, in some practices
Why you may need office visits
While some issues can be discussed with your allergist using telemedicine, many of the most crucial allergy and asthma treatments and procedures must be performed in the office to ensure that you are getting the best possible health results.
Most patients are given an in-office skin test to detect sensitivity to common household animals (like cats and dogs), dust mites, grasses, trees, weeds and mold. If you’re taking medicine that could interfere with allergy test results or if you have very sensitive skin or a serious skin condition, your allergist might perform a blood test instead.
If you are receiving allergy shots, these will need to be administered in person. Allergy shots are given on a schedule designed to increase the amount of the allergen on a regular basis. It’s best not to interrupt, skip or postpone the timing of when you get them.
Oral food challenges
To confirm or rule out a food allergy, an oral food challenge (OFC) is performed. For an OFC, a person is given a very small dose of a food by mouth at first, followed by increasing doses under the supervision of a board-certified allergist to confirm tolerance or a reaction to the food.
To receive biologic therapy to treat allergic disorders such as asthma, atopic dermatitis (eczema) or chronic sinus disease, treatments are given by injection in your allergist’s office, at least at first.
If you’re behind on appointments to monitor and treat your allergies or asthma, call your allergist today. Ask about their current health and safety procedures so you’ll know what to expect when you arrive.
Also, if you plan to visit an allergist for the first time, you will need to provide a history of your symptoms, and then the allergist will perform an in-office physical exam. Using this information, the allergist can determine appropriate allergy testing.
Need to find a board-certified allergist in your area? Use the ACAAI allergist locator.