"Millions of people suffer unnecessarily because they really don't have allergies," said Sheryl Szeinbach, a study co-author and a professor of pharmacy at Ohio State University. "They're often prescribed antihistamines that don't help the problem." A recent study of 246 patients showed researchers that nearly two out of three patients treated for allergies were not allergic. Sixty-five percent of the patients tested negative for allergies; the blood samples from only 35 percent of the subjects showed true allergic reactions.
" This means that two-thirds of the patients were on the wrong kind of medication to start with," Szeinbach said. This led to other problems, such as an increased use of anti-depressants. People with allergies or allergy-like symptoms tend to use antidepressants at a higher rate.
Allergy symptoms mimic the symptoms of other upper respiratory conditions that affect the nasal cavity and sinuses, such as a runny nose and eyes. Almost anything can cause allergy-type symptoms - perfumes, sinus infections, exercise, dust, cold air - whether it's an allergy or not.
Allergy tests come in many shapes and forms. One of the better-known methods is the skin prick test. It's imperative that doctors have the right kinds of tools to diagnose allergies, Szeinbach says, and not all commercial tests are created equal.