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When Are Allergies a Medical Concern?

April 5th, 2017 | 2 min. read

By David Pong, M.D.


Itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose: you may know that these are common symptoms of seasonal allergies. But did you know that more serious issues like asthma, eczema, nausea and diarrhea can also be symptoms of an allergic reaction?

Obvious symptoms may be simple to diagnose; however, allergy symptoms become a medical concern when they interfere with your quality of life. It may take a visit to your doctor who can help differentiate between infection, allergy and other conditions which may have overlapping symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Allergies

Allergy symptoms are most often caused by allergens like pollens, dust, grasses and pet dander that we inhale. These types of allergens may be seasonal. If you’re allergic to dust or pet dander your allergies could be year-round.

You may also experience eczema, which is an over-reaction to environmental changes experienced by our skin, such as a drop in humidity or exposure to solvents and soaps.

Other allergy symptoms can be caused by the foods you eat. Peanuts, shellfish and eggs are three of the most common food allergies people might have. If you notice that you consistently have gastrointestinal distress or skin reactions like swelling after eating certain foods, you may be having an allergic reaction. Even if you feel your symptoms are mild, allergy symptoms may increase in severity upon repeated exposure to an allergen, so it’s important to put an allergy management plan in place. Learn about eating seasonal foods to help limit nasal allergy symptoms.

When Should You See A Doctor?

If you experience swelling of your airways, severe asthma or hives involving the face or large areas of your body, please seek emergency medical treatment to reduce your risk for any serious problems.

If your symptoms are interfering with your daily life you should see your primary care physician for treatment. Your doctor will first take a detailed medical history to determine what is triggering your allergic reaction.


If you suspect you have allergies, keep a daily record of your symptoms so you can give a detailed account to your doctor. You want to be able to tell your doctor when your symptoms began, where they seem to occur and how long your symptoms last.

Read more: Can Allergies Cause High Blood Pressure?

Your doctor will help you decide on an allergy management plan that is right for you. It is your doctor’s goal to provide the most effective allergy treatment with the least amount of inconvenience to you. If your symptoms are mild your doctor may recommend trying home treatments, or over the counter allergy medicines first. 

When to See an Allergy Specialist

If your primary care physician is unable to pinpoint the allergens triggering your symptoms or if you do not experience relief from prescribed treatment, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for treatment.

Depending on your symptoms, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, a gastroenterologist or an allergist. While seeking allergy treatment can be a slow process, it is necessary to diagnose severe allergy symptoms, or if your symptoms put you in a high risk medical situation.

Your primary care physician or a specialist may recommend allergy testing to determine your allergy triggers and how to treat them.

Discuss Your Allergies with Your Doctor

Allergies are a medical concern when they interrupt your overall health and wellness. If you’re experiencing allergy symptoms that interfere with your quality of life, PartnerMD can help you decide on an Allergy Management Plan that’s right for you.

David Pong, M.D.

As a board-certified family medicine physician and Director of Executive Health at PartnerMD in Richmond, VA, Dr. David Pong provides you with the knowledge and tools to pursue your health goals. With over 25 years of experience, he focuses on developing a trusting relationship with you to empower you to achieve your desired healthy outcomes. Dr. Pong enjoys helping you identify and harness your motivation to make the necessary changes for optimal health.