Allergies are common and it is thought that about 1 in 3 of the population will consult a doctor at some time in their life with allergic symptoms. Many cases of rhinitis (tissue inflammation that causes persistent nasal congestion, nose bleeds, nasal itching and sneezing) can be caused by allergies.
This test is simple and quick, giving results within 15-20 minutes, and is carried out by the ENT practice nurse. It is important that you do not take any form of antihistamine or steroid drug for at least 48 hours before the test as these medicines may affect the results. Allergens are introduced into the skin, usually the forearm, in such tiny amounts that testing is quite safe and can be carried out on all age groups, including babies. If you have bad eczema the test can be performed on your back.
The area to be tested is coded with a marker pen for each allergen and a drop of the solution is placed by each code. A standard concentration histamine solution is also applied to serve as a control. The skin is then pricked through the drop using the tip of a single-use sterile lancet. This can feel a little uncomfortable but should not be painful. The nurse will assess the test sites for the presence and size of redness (known as erythema) and lumps (known as wheals) after 15 minutes. The responses are compared to the control histamine solution which should always cause a reaction. The degree of reaction relative to the control indicates whether a certain level of antibodies are present which may be causing your symptoms. The wheals, which feel very much like a reaction to a nettle sting, clear within an hour for most people and any irritation can helped by applying anti-inflammatory steroid cream.
Dr Gerald Brookes is regularly consulted by the media for his expertise. He has been interviewed by the Daily Mail, featured on Channel 4's Embarassing Bodies, looked after The X-Factor contestants and recently, appeared on BBC Radio 2 with Chris Evans.
Adele was experiencing dizziness and balance problems so severe that she could barely function. In desperation, after consulting her GP to no avail, she got in touch with Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies team. The show then contacted Dr Gerald Brookes, who was able to diagnose her rare condition as Basilar Migraine.
Related link: Embarrassing Bodies
Catherine Eade was having dizzy spells and balance problems. When inexplicably she started suffering memory loss too, she consulted Dr Gerald Brookes at The Harley Street ENT Clinic who correctly diagnosed her problem as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
Read her full story in the Daily Mail: Memory like a sieve? Why a simple ear infection may be to blame.
The Harley Street ENT Clinic looked after The X-Factor TV show contestants for many seasons. At the end of the 2010 season, Dr Gerald Brookes was interviewed by Nicky Broyd of Boots WebMD on the perils of high pressure performing.