If our immune system had its own Facebook site, its status would always be set to: “it’s complicated.” In an ideal world, it would just fight off infectious organisms and cancer cells and leave non-harmful things, like foods and drinks, alone. But for many of us, it doesn’t. An allergic reaction to foods or drinks can take different forms, depending on the person—anywhere from just a limited amount of hives and/or itch to full-blown anaphylactic shock. The “gray” areas in between can include stomach/intestinal issues, eczema only on the hands, and more widespread eczema.
If you’re lucky, you can identify what you’re allergic to on your own, but this is most likely to happen only if you experience itching, redness, and/or swelling within minutes each time you’re exposed to the same thing. When it’s not obvious, sometimes blood or prick testing can help.
But what if your allergic reaction doesn’t flare up until hours or days after you eat or drink something (after you’ve had several different meals)? And what if you’re allergic to an ingredient like an additive, preservative, flavoring, or spice that not only can be found in many different foods and drinks, but also multiple personal products you’re using on your skin? It becomes an impossible task to try to figure out on your own. In this case, patch testing can be the way to go.
Both Allergists and Dermatologists deal with allergy issues, but depending on your type of allergic reaction and the provider’s training, you might be better served with one specialist over another. Sometimes, evaluations by both specialists can complement each other.