Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Allergy test results!

I went to the Allergist today and did my allergy test. My nurse, B.J. Johnson (yes, that's her real name, I'm not kidding!!!), had me prop my feet, up, put a pillow on my lap, and lay both arms out, palms facing upwards. She marked A, B, C, D, E, F on sections of my arm, from my elbow to my wrist. The testing things were made up of groups of bristles, in columns and rows -- each 'dot' (really a circle of bristles, I think) tested for one allergen -- but each applicator tested for multiple allergens. Using a rolling motion on my arm, she pressed each of the applicator into the sections of my arm. It felt like someone was poking me with needles -- not like an injection, but just enough to break the skin. Each left a circle of allergen serum so that my arms looked as if I had taken an eye dropper and placed drops of liquid on my arm at intervals.

I had to sit there, arms up, holding onto Advair diskus spongey things (one of those toys doctors get from drug companies). BJ said that if I needed to itch, just squeeze the spongey things. I had to sit there for 15 minutes like that, resisting the urge to itch, watching many of the small circles turn into growing masses on my arms. I turned my attention to The Price is Right, which was on the TV in the testing room, then looked down at the reactions on my arms, and back again. Some of the growing masses swallowed the neighboring mass to form one huge itchy blob. This was pure torture...

BJ marked my results, measuring each welt on my arm with a specialized micrometer. Then she spread cortizone cream thickly all over the tested area. I took a break, walked to the bathroom with this thick, white cream all over my arms, wanting to itch so bad. I wondered if people in the lobby thought I was some freak. Oh wait, maybe they're here to do the same thing...

I went back to the testing room. The next set of allergy tests would be the intradermal test. This one involves the back of your arm where the nurse injects the serum with a needle to create a bubble under your skin. They wait 15 minutes to see the reaction. They do this test if there is something that didn't show up on the first (percutaneous/skin) test. Luckily, she only had to retest me for cat dander and ragweed..well...because so much showed up on the first test. My cat dander and ragweed tests ended up growing to meet each other, forming a huge oblong welt.

Out of 48 pricks and 2 intradermal tests, 18 came out to have an allergic reacion. To no surprise, here are the things that I'm allergic to (*** means that I'm very allergic to it):

- American Elm***
- Mountain Cedar***
- Virginia Live Oak***
- Arizona Ash
- Pecan
- Sycamore***
- Mulberry
- Mesquite***
- Ragweed***
- Russian Thistle
- Bermuda Grass***
- Perrenial Rye Grass
- Johnson Grass***
- Bahia Grass***
- Pteronyssinus*** (dust mite)
- Farinae*** (dust mite)
- Cat***
- Dog

And it was not a pretty picture. My arms looked pretty freakish in nature, like I had been attacked by a vicious swarm of mosquitos. Here's after the testing (they looked much worse in person and before the cortizone cream was applied!)

left arm (Weeds, molds, Animals/mites/cockroach/others)

left arm (Weeds, molds, Animals/mites/cockroach/others)

right arm (trees and grasses)

right arm (trees and grasses)

After the allergy testing, the nurse tested me for asthma. She had me take a huge breath, blow into a machine as hard and as long as I could, basically until I was ready to pass out. I did that three times, and gasped for air after each blow. Luckily, she found that I do not have asthma on a regular basis. I do have allergy triggered bronchial asthma and exercise induced asthma, though. Nothing severe, just shortness of breath and wheezing sometimes.

BJ moved me to an exam room, where the doctor saw me shortly. We talked about the next steps, and he gave me samples of antihistamines, allergy eye drops, nose sprays, and an asthma inhaler.

Depending on how my insurance covers allergy shots, I may get them. I'd need 3 serums made up for me. But the cost of 4 vials of 3 serums (12 vials total) is $1560. This would only last me anywhere from 3-5 months initially. Seeing that allergy shots is a long term treatment (ie. 3-5 years, depending on the severity, which for me, would probably be the latter or longer), well...I'm guessing maybe at tops, about $6000 a year for allergy shots...that's the cost. So over 5 years time, let's say $30000. It would really be less than that, since over time, you take less shots, but regardless, it's an assload of money we're talking about. I'm going to have Sean talk to his HR department to see what they'll cover, and what we'll have to pay. If it's anything in the thousands per year, forget it, I can't afford it. I mean, hell, I'm not even paying that much for my wedding! So we'll see what they say...

And for fun...I got a pollen chart for the Austin area. I thought, gee, what a fun activity it would be to color in what I was allergic too...and that doesn't even count dust mites and animal dander!


Blogger Dixie said...

You are covered on his insurance even though you are not married? That is pretty awesome!

2:20 PM  
Blogger Dixie said...

P.S. Sorry about all the allergens. I keep telling Clint to see an allergist. I will be curious to see if the treatments help you out.

2:21 PM  
Blogger marisa said...

We're 'domestic partners' ;) We had to do some things, like have a bank account for x months and sign some papers and such to get me on his insurance.

Thanks for the sympathies :) They say that it may not work for 6 to 12 months, though!

5:04 PM  
Blogger textile_fetish said...

I wouldn't do the allergy shots. I'd opt to have occassional nasal spray or something to treat symptoms. I had allergy shots as a kid. It did nothing but insure we were paying this guy's office on a regular basis. I think I'd rather've had ballet classes. I am just SO anti-long-term pharmaceutical unless it is a life-threatening illness, you know? Anyway treatments S-U-C-K and it's all a big racket. It's just good to know what you are allergic to so you can avoid it or treat it when it crosses your path. (sorry for being preachy, lady)

8:09 PM  
Blogger marisa said...

Preachy is fine, Jennifer..it's good to hear people's thoughts. :) I'm going to give the shots a try, though. I know they don't work for everyone, and it'll be a while before I can tell. But I can't knock it until I try it. I have heard positives from people it does work for as well. So I'll try them out and see what happens...

Unfortunately, the allergies are year round and all around, with the cedar being the worst of the pollens (and behind my backyard is acres and acres and acres of endless cedar trees!!!). The only way to avoid them is to...probably move to an island with a nice breeze that brings fresh air! Now I wouldn't mind that ;) But chances of that happening are slim!

Or another thing I could do strategically plan vacations during high allergy seasons ;)

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Travel Gear Blog said...

I hate those allergies! I had a similar test, but they used some kind of mini-devil-fork and pricked it under my skin. Of course on the underside of my arm where it's the most sensitive...

My arm was about as red as a sunburn with some small little hives in places. Oddly enough it didn't itch at all.

I'm pretty much allergic to most things other than mold. So blue cheese is safe for now I guess.


11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just had the same allergy test done and my insurance covered some of it, but my patient balance is $766! Doesn't that sound pricey? They even have a charge of $10 for a pair of gloves!! Did your test cost so much?

3:24 PM  
Blogger marisa said...

Whoa, $766!?! My insurance covered if fully. I just (luckily) only had to pay the $10 copay. I haven't gotten the actual bill yet that breaks it down as to how much it would normally cost, so not sure if that $766 is right. Sounds like a lot of just tests! When I get that bill, I'll post a comment on the actual cost...

$10 pair of gloves??? sheesh.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Marisa,
I would appreciate that!

7:17 PM  
Blogger marisa said...

anonymous, my allergy test was $520.

9:01 PM  

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