The exam will include looking at the ears, eyes and any areas that may be related to a diagnosis.
Peters says depending on the patient they may do a skin test. This involves putting a small amount of the allergen on the skin and doing a minor pinprick. The allergist can determine allergy based on the skin's reaction. While there are many possible allergens she says they usually can narrow it down and test for a series of common allergens such as pollen, ragweed or dust.
Another approach is a traditional blood test, but the results will take time.
What can be done?
Foggs says the approach depends on the allergy. In some cases the patient is instructed to avoid the allergic agents to decrease the burden of allergy at their home and workplace.
Allergists can prescribe medications and there are nasal steroid sprays that are very safe and effective, Peters says.
In many cases it is only necessary to visit an allergist once to determine the cause of the allergy.
"We only continue to manage difficult cases," Foggs says.
For some persistent allergies, Foggs says, they may prescribe shots to build tolerance.
Peters cautions older adults about over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestion medications. She says they have side effects such as fatigue and dryness and in some cases can make the heart race. They also can interact with other medications, she says.
Allergies and some of the antihistamines taken for them can make people feel run down and groggy, but a diagnosis of allergies doesn't mean one is relegated to the couch during nice weather.
Braswell says the most important thing is to check with the doctor to make sure it is safe to exercise.
"It is challenging to exercise with seasonal allergies due to congestion, itching, and other symptoms of allergies," Braswell acknowledges. "A major precaution to take is to exercise indoors. You can avoid much pollen and therefore the symptoms of seasonal allergies if you choose an exercise routine indoors."
Peters says whenever possible she recommends exercise.
"You shouldn't let allergies limit your quality of life," she says.
Braswell says if you want to get moving outdoors there are precautions to take.
"Carefully choose times when you are exercising outside. You should make efforts to stay indoors during peak pollen times of 5 to 10 a.m. You may also feel fewer symptoms if you exercise outdoors after rain."
Braswell suggests avoiding outdoor exercise during hot, dry, windy days when pollens, molds, and dust tend to be at their highest.
"Exercise is important for everyone even those suffering from allergies," says Braswell. "While a regular routine will not cure your allergies, it can help you feel better. By keeping the heart and lungs strengthened allergy sufferers will truly benefit."