What to Expect

In order to determine whether or not you have an allergy to ragweed, you can expect your doctor to:

  • Ask questions about your medical history
  • Give you a physical exam
  • Perform tests

Medical History:

This is where the doctor will ask you all kinds of questions to get an understanding of your symptoms and possible causes. They will ask about your family history, any medications you may be taking and lifestyle questions that may be pertinent to allergies.

Physical Exam:

When allergies are suspected you can expect your doctor to check your ears, eyes, nose, throat, chest and skin. The doctor may also check to see how well you exhale air from your lungs and in some cases an x-ray of your lungs or sinuses may be required.

Tests:

The most common way to determine if someone has a specific allergy is to perform the skin sensitivity test. It may sound daunting but it’s actually rather simple. There are two ways to perform this test.

The first is prick/scratch testing where a small drop of ragweed pollen is placed on the skin. Then the skin is lightly pricked or scratched with a needle through the drop.

The second method of performing the skin sensitivity test is by injecting a very small amount of pollen extract into the outer layer of skin.

In both cases, those people sensitive to the extract will see their skin turn red, swollen and itchy within about 20 minutes. They may also see what appears to be a hive. People that are not sensitive to the extract will not have a reaction.

Occasionally blood tests are used to see if an antibody to ragweed is present. These are often performed when someone has a skin condition or is taking medicines that interfere with skin testing. The doctor will draw some blood then send it to the lab where the allergen is added to the sample. They measure the amount of antibodies the blood produces to attack it. The results of these tests take longer for processing.