Do I need a referral to be seen by the Allergy or Immunology service?

Yes, all referrals must come from a GP or from another specialist. This doctor, who knows about your symptoms, must believe they could be due to an allergic or immune problem. The referral will ask us to investigate this further in our specialist centre. After you have been assessed, you may be followed up or treated by the Allergy or Immunology service or be sent back to the referring doctor with guidance to help manage your symptoms.”

How do I know if I have a problem with my immune system?

There is no sure way of knowing whether you have a problem without testing. About 80% of immune deficiency diseases in adults can be picked up by 4 simple tests that can be requested by any doctor:

  • Full blood count
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Serum complement (C3 and C4)
  • HIV test

If these tests are completely normal, then it is much less likely that you have a problem with your immune system. However, if your doctor still thinks there may be a problem, he can refer you to see us.

Other immune deficiency diseases, especially in children, are harder to diagnose, and testing has to be done in specialist centres like ours.”

Reference: AP Huissoon & MT Krishna. Does this patient have an immunodeficiency? Clin Med 2011; 11 (4): 380-384.

What happens when I am seen in the Immunology or Allergy clinic?

One of our specialist doctors or nurses will first take the full details of your symptoms and how they have affected you. Other background medical questions will help us to understand other factors that might be involved. From your description of your symptoms, and the answers to other questions, the specialist will begin to understand what the causes might be.  A short medical examination might be necessary, but you will always be offered a chaperone if you would like one.”

Will I have tests at the clinic?

The clinic can provide all available immunology and allergy tests. Blood tests are usually be done on the day of your first appointment where they are necessary (or arranged for later if you have a telephone appointment).  The doctor or nurse can let you know how you will find out the results.  You may be sent a letter with the results, or more usually these are discussed with you at your next appointment.

Patients in the allergy clinic may have skin tests or challenge tests organised. However, not all patients with symptoms of allergy actually need an allergy test. Even if your symptoms are typical of allergy, tests are not always needed to make the diagnosis. The nurse or doctor can explain more about this.

What are the commonest symptoms of allergy?

Allergies cause a relatively limited range of symptoms

  • Wheeze or cough
  • Runny, blocked or itchy nose
  • Itchy, gritty and watering eyes
  • Itchy, raised skin rash (weals, hives or urticaria)
  • Swelling of skin, mouth, tongue or throat

Some food allergies can also cause abdominal pain or cramps, vomiting or diarrhoea, but they usually cause one of the other symptoms above at the same time.”

Do I need to bring anything to the appointment?

We will always check your details to make sure that we have your correct address, telephone number and email, and your GP’s details – bring these with you. Please make sure you bring a list of your medication (or ideally the medication itself).”

I think I know what caused my allergy reaction – should I bring it to the clinic?

Sometimes people think they know the cause of their allergic symptoms. Please feel free to bring anything (within reason) that you think causes reactions (we’re talking mainly about foods here – please don’t bring live animals or a wasp’s nest to the clinic!). It is always useful to see the actual suspect, and sometimes we are able to do an allergy test using the substance that you have brought.”