What to Expect


The Allergy Division is divided into the General Allergy Section and the Food Allergy Center and provides diagnosis and care for individuals with a sometimes overlapping spectrum of disorders including the following:

  • Asthma (symptoms may include chronic cough, shortness of breath, exercise limitation and wheezing)
  • Seasonal Allergies or Hay Fever and Perennial Rhinitis (symptoms may include nasal congestion with sleep interference, sneezing, eye itching and redness,  fatigue)
  • Drug Allergy (manifestations include anaphylaxis, rashes of various kinds and serious involvement of many organs in the body)
  • Urticaria or Hives (symptoms include red itchy bumps on the skin)
  • Anaphylaxis and angioedema or swelling (these are potentially life threatening conditions)
  • Eczema (symptoms include itchy, scaly dry skin)
  • Contact Dermatitis (symptoms can include a bubbly rash following exposure to poison ivy or cosmetics)
  • Occupational Allergies (this includes such things as allergy to latex, laboratory animals and other work related exposures)
  • Insect sting and insect bite allergies
  • Immune deficiencies and recurrent infections in adults
  • Food allergy 
Almost all of the symptoms listed above can be caused by a number of contributing factors in a given individual and can at times, overlap with one another (for example allergy to cats can cause asthma, rhinitis, urticarial and worsening eczema).  To determine your allergy, we will typically start with a detailed medical history combined with a physical examination and specific diagnostic testing.  The testing that we do consists of only what we consider necessary to make a diagnosis.

An evaluation may result in a recommendation for evaluation in additional specialty clinics.  For example the presence of nasal polyps may require consideration of surgery by an ENT physician or a skin rash may require a second opinion by a dermatologist.

At the conclusion of you initial visit or two we will strive to give you and your referring physician a comprehensive diagnosis with recommendations for treatment.  We may need to have you return for evaluation of responses to treatment.

Preparing for Your Appointment

If you are being evaluated for respiratory or food allergy, insect sting allergy or some cases of drug allergy we would like to minimize the number of visits that you need for a diagnosis to be made.  The following measures will expedite your evaluation:

  • Please fill out our appointment preparation forms and bring them with you to your appointment. We have also provided a campus map that will help you get to office on the 3rd Floor of the South Building.
  • Any skin testing will require that you NOT take the following medication for 7 days prior to your visit.
    • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
    • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
    • Brompheniramine (Dimetapp)
    • Clemastine (Tavist, Antihist)
    • Cyproheptadine (Periactin)
    • Doxepin (Adapin, Silenor, Sinequan)
    • Combination Drugs (Actifed, Drixoral, Trinalin)
    • Loratadine (Claritin)
    • Fexofenadine (Allegra)
    • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
    • Hydroxyzine (Vistaril, Atarax)
    • Azelastine nasal spray (Astelin, Asteopro)
    • Olopatadine nasal spray (Patanase)
    • Some over the counter sleep aids
  • Previous medical records are always helpful if you have been referred from outside of Tufts Medical Center (this might include Hospital discharge summaries, Physician Office Records, X-ray reports)

At your initial visit expect to spend two hours with us.  We will conduct:

  • An interview regarding your medical history
  • An environmental, occupational, social and family history
  • A physical examination
  • If medically indicated: skin testing, lung function testing and laboratory tests.
  • Special procedures such as drug challenges and some drug testing and certain desensitization treatments will generally be scheduled for a future visit.

Preparing for Your Hydrogen Breath Test

A hydrogen breath test provides information about the digestion of certain sugars or carbohydrates, such as milk sugar (lactose) and fruit sugar (fructose). The test is also used for detecting abnormal growth of bacteria within the small bowel. Bacterial overgrowth can cause a variety of symptoms including bloating, diarrhea, burping and abdominal cramps. The test takes ~3 hours.

Preparation for the test

For four weeks before your test, you should not take any antibiotics.

For one week before your test, avoid any laxatives and stool softeners (for example Colace®, Milk of Magnesia®, Ex-Lax®) or stool bulking agents (for example Metamucil® or Citrucel®). You should also not undergo any test that requires cleansing of the bowel, such as colonoscopy or barium enema.

The day before your test:

  • You may consume only the following foods and drinks: plain white bread, plain white rice, plain white potatoes, baked or broiled chicken or fish, water, and non-flavored black coffee or tea.
  • Only salt may be used to flavor your food. Butter and margarine are not permitted.
  • Soda/cola drinks are not permitted.
  • Do not eat or drink anything else – it could give false results for the test.
  • Specifically, avoid beans, pasta, fiber cereals, and high fiber foods.
  • The night before the test, have an early dinner of rice and meat.

For 12 hours before your test:

  • You must stop eating and drinking 12 hours before the test. For example, if your test is at 8:00 am, you would stop eating and drinking at 8:00 pm the night before.
  • You may continue to take your usual prescribed medicines with water until 12 hours before the test.
  • Please bring all prescription medications to your appointment.

The day of your test:

  • You should not eat or drink anything in the morning.
  • You may take your medications with a small amount of water. If you are diabetic requiring insulin or diabetic pills, ask your physician if you should change your morning dose. Generally, half of your normal long-acting insulin is given. Oral hypoglycemic medications are usually not taken that morning until completion of the test and resumption of eating meals.
  • Brush your teeth 2 hours before the test.
  • Do not eat, drink, chew gum or tobacco, smoke cigarettes, or eat breath mints or candy before or during the test

Download PDF document.

Download a PDF version of the Hydrogen Breath Test Instructions

Download PDF document.

Download a Chinese language PDF of the Hydrogen Breath Test Instructions

Download Word document.

Download a Spanish language document of the Hydrogen Breath Test Instructions

Preparing for Your Food Challenge

Please bring the food that you or your child will be challenged with and your auto-injectable epinephrine (Epi-Pen/auvi-Q) to the appointment.

If you have questions, please call our office.

7 Days Before Challenge:

Stop any oral antihistamine medications. This includes Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Claritin (loratidine), Allegra (fexofenadine), and Atarax (hydroxyzine).  There are many other antihistamines, so it is important to read all medication labels carefully, especially over-the-counter allergy/sinus/cold medications. If you have any questions, or if you take any of these medications within 1 week of the challenge, please contact our clinic.

If you have asthma, please continue your daily inhaled steroid medications for asthma (Flovent, Advair, Pulmicort, Symbicort, Asmanex) and/or Singulair.

If you use albuterol, Xopenex or any bronchodilator medication more than two times (except prior to exercise) in the week before the food challenge, please contact our clinic.

You can continue inhaled steroid nasal sprays (Flonase, Nasonex, Rhinocort), but please

Stop antihistamine nasal sprays (Astelin, Astepro).

Day of the Challenge:

You can have only clear liquids (e.g., water, fruit juices that have no pulp, sports drinks, popsicles) for 2 hours prior to the challenge.

Please arrive on time.

During the challenge, vital signs, oxygen saturation, breath sounds, and skin assessments will be performed regularly.  We will also ask you to note any signs or symptoms that you observe and report them immediately to us. 

You will be in the clinic for several hours. Please bring something to occupy yourself such as a laptop, book, ipad, etc.

During the challenge, no other food should be ingested.

Following the food challenge, you will be given specific recommendations depending upon the outcome of the challenge.

Please do not hesitate to call our clinic for any questions or concerns: 617-636-0136 (pediatrics) and 617-636-5333 (adults)

Download PDF document.

Download a PDF version of the Food Challenge Preparation Instructions

Download PDF document.

Download a Chinese language PDF of the Food Challenge Preparation Instructions

Download Word document.

Download a Spanish language document of the Food Challenge Preparation Instructions

Contact Us

To make an appointment to with the Division of Allergy at Tufts Medical Center, please call 617-636-5333.
Learn about our allergists approach to all types of allergies that affect people living in Boston.

Allergies 101

Watch our video to learn the basics about allergies: What they are, how they impact our lives, their causes and the treatment options available at Tufts MC.

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