Some say it's a waste of time to consult doctors who are not specialists in ME/CFS because they are generally "clueless." I agree to some extent, although I think it's possible that, under certain circumstances, specialists can help a patient solve a small portion of the ME/CFS puzzle. I also think it can be dangerous to always write off new symptoms as "just another manifestation of ME/CFS." That's not an assumption you want to be wrong about. It's better to be safe.
I had a follow up appointment with the allergist on Monday, still trying to find answers to my shortness of breath and post nasal drip. They conducted an allergy skin test in which they tested me for 50 of the most common allergens--mostly environmental allergens, but the test included a few of the most common food allergies.
Allergy Skin Tests
For those that haven't had this test, the nurse applies a grid to the patient's skin. The grid contains a number of needles that each contain a small amount of a potential allergen. Each needle introduces the allergen into the skin by puncturing or scratching the surface. The test is usually performed on the forearm or back. For me, they performed the test on the back because the forearm doesn't provide enough space for 50 punctures.
The test doesn't hurt; it simply itches slightly. After 15 minutes the nurse comes back and looks to see where, if any, there are red marks (inflammation) on the skin. The nurse keeps track of where each of the allergens was administered and that tells him/her what you're allergic to.
The results are given with a score of 0 to 15. Any scores in the 7 - 11 range are considered highly indicative of an allergy. For me, nothing scored that high. A handful of results scored in the 2-5 range, indicating a "mild" allergy.
Mold. I've recently had two different blood tests that, according to my doctor, revealed I am not genetically predisposed to react to mold. This is consistent with my own experience--mold avoidance never did anything for me. The allergy test did, however, show reactivity to two outdoor molds. According to the allergist, the results do not mean I need to check my home for these molds because they only grow outdoors.
Food. They tested for wheat, egg, milk, and peanut allergies and I was negative for all four. However, the next day after the test, I read in "Why Can't I Get Better?" by Dr. Richard Horowitz that scratch tests only test for IgM reactivity -- immediate, severe reactions. According to Horowitz, one can have delayed reactions (IgG antibodies) which don't reveal until 24 - 48 hours later. I may need to try an elimination diet to determine if I have IgG food allergies. This is something I might explore in the near future.
Dust. I was negative for dust allergies (dust mites.) This surprised me somewhat. I thought that if anything could explain why I often seem to have worse SOB and PND in my car, it would be dust.
Trees and Weeds. I only had mild allergies to 2 of the 15 trees and weeds tested. One was a tree that only grows on the East Coast. The other was olive trees (the leaves, not the pollen.) I asked my doctor if this means I should avoid taking Olive Leaf Extract (OLE) as a supplement (something I was taking as of Monday, and which was an ingredient in another supplement I was taking.) She said, "yes" but she was clearly guessing. Subsequent Googling of that question lead to conflicting results: some said yes, some said no. I'll probably avoid OLE to be safe.
Cats and Dogs. I have mild allergies to both cats and dogs. I knew about the cat allergy, but not about dogs. Several months ago, my kids asked if we could get a dog. Having been bitten by a dog as a child and never really being much of a fan of dogs since, I told my kids we couldn't get a dog because I was "allergic." Apparently that wasn't a lie!
The only useful information to come out of this allergy testing was ruling out IgM allergic reactions as a major contributor to my inflammation--at least for the 50 common allergens we tested. There is some value in that. I also learned that maybe I should avoid olive leaf extract as a supplement. Unfortunately, I still don't have an answer as to why my SOD and PND often gets worse in my car.