frequently asked questions
What is an allergist? What are their qualifications?
An allergist (or allergist / immunologist) has a M.D. degree, residency training in Internal Medicine and/or Pediatrics, subspecialty fellowship training in Allergy & Immunology and board-certification by the American Board of Allergy & Immunology. Dr. Chen is dedicated to upholding the latest standard of care and regularly participates in continuing education offered by state and national allergy societies.
Who should see an allergist?
Anyone whose allergies disrupt daily living, do not respond to over-the-counter medicines or seeks testing for the cause of their symptoms. Patients with moderate to severe asthma, food, medication or insect allergies should seek an allergist.
Beware of "allergy tests" offered in some urgent and primary care clinics. These third-party "allergy technicians" are NOT board-certified allergists and deprive you of a specialist's expertise while charging similar fees, potentially exposing you or your child to sub-optimal or even fraudulent care.
If a visit to any doctor ends with a recommendation for allergy testing, insist on a referral to a board-certified allergist.
Who is at risk for allergies?
Allergies affect people of all ages, genders, races and socioeconomic status. Although allergies tend to develop in childhood, they can occur for the first time at any age or, in some cases, recur after many years of remission. Allergies often run in families and it is common for our practice to treat multiple members of the same family.
What is allergy testing?
Skin or blood testing is used for food or environmental allergies. Skin testing is more sensitive and is usually preferred. Antihistamine medications need to be discontinued temporarily for accurate results. Allergy testing is generally very safe and not painful, though itching may occur if a patient is allergic.
Testing identifies allergic triggers and helps efforts to eliminate them. If the trigger is seasonal, patients can anticipate when to start or increase medications. Finally, knowing the exact environmental cause is needed to prepare allergy shots, which help patients with severe or persistent symptoms.
What are allergy shots?
Immunotherapy (allergy shots) are the closest thing to an allergy cure. Allergens are injected at gradually increasing doses to desensitize the body to those triggers. Many shot patients reduce or even eliminate their medications, saving money in the long run. Unlike medications, shot effectiveness does not depend on daily use.
What if I don't like needles?
Allergy injections are given through much thinner and shorter needles than those used for many medications, such as the flu shot. Topical anesthetics to numb the skin are also provided so injections are often over before you know it!
Are allergy shots safe?
Generally, yes. Because allergens are injected, there is always a small risk of reaction. Allergy shots should only be given in a doctor's office and you must wait 30 minutes after administration for your safety. Many patients can fit shots into a lunch break or after school.
Our office has plenty of seating, books, free Wi-Fi and most importantly trained staff to address your needs. Shots are given through the day and no appointment is needed.
In the past, some doctors allowed allergy shots at home. These doses were either too low to work or unsafe. All national allergy organizations agree that shots should be given in a doctor's office.
How do I know if I have asthma?
Diagnosing asthma requires a combination of medical history, a detailed physical examination, and lung function testing in the office. Certain laboratory tests may be used to determine your specific asthma triggers.
Can I exercise or play sports with asthma?
Yes! Although asthma an be triggered by exercise, with proper treatment many patients participate fully in sports and outdoor hobbies. A healthy diet and lifestyle actually improves asthma symptoms. We can get you back to enjoying your favorite activities.
How do I know if I have food allergies?
An allergy test alone is not enough to diagnose food allergy. Patients often self-diagnose or hope that a single test that will tell them exactly how to feel better.
Some companies offer testing panels purporting to diagnose "food sensitivities" and claim removal of such foods improves a variety of symptoms. It is important to understand that this test has never been scientifically proven to be able to accomplish what it reports to do. Results are often inaccurate and cause needless lifestyle changes and worse, nutrition deficiencies.
A thorough history and physical exam by a trained allergist is important to distinguish what is and is not an allergy.