My preparation

For many people, an appointment with a specialized doctor takes a long time. I know this very well. It took me over three months to get an appointment with an allergist, and for 20 years, I had never had a specialist visit for food, pet, or environmental allergies, let alone an allergy test. I didn’t want to waste any of those 15 precious minutes when I finally got the appointment. Preparing for the appointment helped me make the most of my time with the allergist and reduce tension in anticipation of the doctor’s visit.

The preparation helped me make the most of that appointment and subsequent ones. I’m happy to say that, with the help of doctors, I’ve figured out what I’m allergic to now (instead of just knowing what I was allergic to 20 years ago) and have gained new confidence in living better with allergies. I was able to reintroduce some foods into my diet and also better understand the severity of some of my food allergies.

After many visits to the doctor, I have perfected my preparation for appointments to optimise the time available. Here is a guide with an overview of the information to collect before the appointment and a useful document to print and fill out.

Step 1: Formulate the questions

The first thing to do is gather the topics to discuss with the doctor. When I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, I tend to forget at least half of the things I want to talk about. Does it happen to you, too? Or, suddenly, my problems don’t seem so important, so I downplay the symptoms. Sometimes, I even felt I shouldn’t ask some questions because they were obvious or frustrating. I don’t want to be a burdensome or inconvenient patient, a person incapable of managing the disease appropriately. Now, I realise this armour is unnecessary when confronting the doctor. Worries will not make you an inappropriate patient. They will make you an aware and responsible patient.

It is important to remember not to worry about doctor visits. Doctors are people like us, and they are on our side. If you are embarrassed about something, the solution is to think that the doctor has likely already encountered it in other patients.

But what questions should you ask your family doctor? If you’re like me, you may want to discuss allergy changes over time or learn more about possible treatments or allergy food testing. The questions do not necessarily have to be medical, as an allergy diagnosis implies a medical condition and a disorder that interferes with one’s lifestyle.

Therefore, asking about living with food allergies is legitimate. You may want to seek advice on school cafeteria safety or understand what precautions to take for food allergies while travelling. These visits can also be a time to discuss mental health and quality of life. The appointment with the doctor is when you can finally get answers, and it is therefore important to discuss things calmly.

Step 2: Take note of relevant medical history

In addition to asking questions, it is also important to write down your medical history and allergy symptoms to food, pets, or any environment. It may also be helpful to bring relevant photographs (for example, pictures of rashes) to the appointment if necessary. The possible questions to ask the doctor will be directly linked to the problems for which the appointment has been scheduled. You can start from these to begin the discussion with the doctor. The more details you need to report, the better the picture the doctor can paint.

Do you need help organising your medical history? Answer a few questions to create a profile of your symptoms and prepare for your visit to your family doctor.

Also, make a list of all the medications and supplements you take. The Dr. Itch Podcast contributor Payel Gupta asks all patients to take photos of their prescriptions and create an X-ray album on their phone. It is advisable to indicate the name and expiry date of each medicine. If you take vitamins or other supplements, be sure to include the list of ingredients.

Step 3: Conduct your research

Another part of preparing for an allergy exam is doing your research. I would like to know the treatment options and technical terms I may encounter. Knowing some basic information can speed up your conversation with your doctor and ultimately help you make more informed decisions.

It is important to note that not all sources are equally reliable. Doctor Google could lead you to incorrect and alarmist information, so paying attention to the sources is essential. Organisations, associations and podcasts are the best sources to get information from. Regarding information not supported by facts, it is always a good idea to check whether the person speaking or writing has negative reviews or connections with companies or brands that could influence their opinions.

During the research phase

It is good to write down all the questions that come to mind. When discussing health, no topic should be off the table. We recommend asking about everything from possible treatments to symptoms and diagnosis. When presenting this information to the doctor, you need to discuss it and remember that having read several articles does not make the patient an expert.

Preparing for it with an open mind and a collaborative spirit is important to get the most out of your appointment. If the patient had already diagnosed the problem and established a treatment plan independently, the doctor would have very little room for action to do his job. Dr. Gupta suggests approaching the discussion with the doctor. Approach with this attitude: “I read this article that suggested this. What do you think?” It is better to avoid expressing oneself like this: “I have read this, and I want to proceed this way”.

There is a balance between being informed and being too aggressive. Remember that we turn to the doctor for a reason and should trust and rely on him. It is important to find a doctor with whom you can establish a collaborative relationship. A fruitful conversation with your doctor will result in the right way to solve health problems.

Step 4: Bring your results with you

If diagnostic tests have already been carried out, such as specific IgE blood allergy and allergenic component tests, you must bring the results to your appointment. Test results are not easy to interpret on your own. Having the ability to review them with your family doctor is a significant advantage. Suppose the family doctor has already said that taking an IgE blood sample at the appointment will be necessary to monitor changes in the already diagnosed allergy. In that case, contacting the doctor’s office before the visit is advisable. Some doctors may ask for blood tests before your visit. This is so they can discuss the results in person and run any other tests together on the same day.

Other suggestions

• In doctors’ offices, it is often necessary to wait. It is, therefore, advisable not to make any other commitments immediately after the appointment.

• Doctors would also probably like to spend more time on each visit. If they interrupt the dialogue, you shouldn’t get angry. It is very likely that they have an idea of the problem and want to ask in-depth questions. Doctors do this daily and, like detectives, try to obtain key information quickly because time is of the essence.