Frequently Asked Questions
The majority of children Dr Helen sees in clinic are those where the family suspect they have a food allergy. This can present in a variety of ways – with rashes, swelling, vomiting, bowel symptoms, reflux, and indigestion. Dr Helen will assess what is going on for that child and arrange any testing necessary. Dr Helen also sees many babies and children/adolescents with skin rashes and eczema; especially where there is a question of whether food or environmental allergies are contributing to skin difficulties. We also see children where there are concerns about asthma, congestion, coughing. We can test for environmental allergies to pets, house dust mite, pollens and moulds and advise and treat these conditions. We also assess venom allergies such as bee and wasp sting reactions.
Dr Helen assesses adults concerned about food allergies, environmental allergies or eczema. She also sees many adults with chronic abdominal pain where the cause is not known. Additionally, she sees those with venom allergies, rashes, asthma and chronic coughs. If you would like to know if Dr Helen can help, then please do contact us.
There is often a cross over in the type of conditions that an allergist and dermatologist manage. Both specialists can manage eczema and conditions which cause spontaneous hives and swelling. If you are concerned about food or environmental allergies then an allergist is the best person to consult as the skin prick testing and blood testing, we have available, looks at this type of immediate allergy. If you are concerned about reactions to potential chemicals, shampoos, soaps, metals etc., then a dermatologist is the best specialist to see as they can arrange patch testing which looks at a more delayed allergy which causes rashes to these substances. If you are not sure who to see, then please do submit a query and we will help direct you.
Allergy consultations last one hour and cost £250. Following the consultation, you will receive an in-depth clinic letter. Allergy skin prick tests cost an additional £100.
We have clinic appointments available in Westbourne, Bournemouth on Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Appointments are also available in Poundbury, Dorchester on a Saturday. Phone consultations can be on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays. For further information and directions see our Contact Page
Yes, we can do a full allergy consultation with anyone in the UK. This is done across a video platform and costs £250. If allergy testing is available, we will discuss potential options with you as to how this can be arranged. We are also able to provide support calls to individuals outside of the UK for £250 for one hour or £119 for 30 minutes. This should not be done in place of a medical consultation with a doctor in your home country. For further information Contact Us
Dr Helen will spend a full hour with you assessing what symptoms are present and establishing what the main concerns are. The full medical history will be reviewed, and an examination will be undertaken as needed. If allergy testing is indicated or wanted, then this can be done within the consultation provided the person is well and not on medications which will affect the results (like antihistamines). Dr Helen will then give full guidance on how to manage or treat the situation and prescribe any necessary medication. If needed, Dr Helen can refer on to the NHS services.
Dr Helen feels it is beneficial for GP’s to be sent a copy of your consultation letter following the appointment so that they can provide ongoing care and prescriptions if needed. We will not however send out this letter if you object.
Yes! Dr Helen offers access to her Facebook Support Group where there is an amazing community of fellow allergy suffers. She also answers questions daily within the group so you are constantly supported. She will also answer any queries you email through.
If the situation is becoming complex or you would like a formal follow up appointment, this is available for £210. Follow up appointments are not mandatory but are an option for ongoing allergy support/ retesting or follow up after medications are initiated.
Dr Helen can provide a private prescription for any medication which she feels is necessary after speaking to you and making an assessment. The initial prescription does not incur any additional charge from Dr Helen but there will be a fee payable to the pharmacist which is usually reasonable and is essentially the cost of the medication. If you do not want a private prescription, Dr Helen can ask your GP to provide a NHS prescription if this is a ‘normal’ treatment which GP’s are able to provide. Ongoing prescriptions can then either be sought from your GP or are available at a cost of £25 if no appointment is needed.
Yes, Dr Helen can undertake allergy testing when this is required. The easiest method of doing this is by an allergy skin prick test (see video). This can be done on the day and gives results within 15-20 minutes. If skin prick testing is not possible or acceptable, blood can be taken and sent away for allergy testing (specific IgE testing). Blood test results are usually back within 3-5 days and the results of these and an accompanying explanation will be emailed to you as soon as Dr Helen as reviewed them.
There is no lower age limit for allergy tests and skin prick tests can be safely performed on children less than 6 months old. However, they can be less reliable when done on infants who are only a few months old and are not always necessary. An allergy focused history is crucial to help Dr Helen determine what tests are needed. This will then be discussed with you and testing will be agreed between us.
Allergy testing can either be done to check for environmental allergies – animals, housedust mite, moulds and pollens or food. Any food can be tested for, but we sometimes require you to bring fresh food with you if the food is not a common allergen (food which causes an allergic reaction). Please check with us before your appointment if you are not sure whether to bring food along.
No, allergy testing does not hurt, and Dr Helen can demonstrate on you as the parent to show you how it feels. When babies have allergy testing performed, they often do not wake up (showing how little it hurts). Toddlers and young children often struggle as their arm needs to be kept still for the procedure and some get a bit upset by this with this. We can help distract children with bubble blowing and prizes. The procedure takes around 5 minutes to carry out. If a person has an allergy, the reacting area will have a small itchy bump. This disappears after about 20minutes. We can give antihistamines if needed.
Medications containing antihistamines (eg. Chlorpheniramine/ puriton, cetirizine, loratadine, fexofenadine, levocetirizine, dymista nasal spray, cough mixtures containing antihistamines, cyclizine) need to be stopped 5 days before any testing or the results may not be valid. If this is not possible, then a blood test can be carried out instead as these results are not affected by medications. Please be aware that the results of the blood tests take around 3-5 days to be returned. Children with sensory difficulties also occasionally struggle with skin prick testing and prefer a blood test instead. Dr Helen will discuss with you what is right for your child. It may not be possible to undertake skin prick tests for a person if they are unwell on the day. Please discuss this with the clinic if you are not sure.
Yes, these tests are incredibly safe and carried out daily in allergy offices across the world. Patients with positive tests will get a small hive (itchy red bump) at the site of the test. Occasionally, people develop a few hives elsewhere but very, very rarely does it cause anything more significant than that. Dr Helen is fully equipped and trained to deal with any reactions.
Skin prick testing costs £100 in addition to the consultation fee. If you need a blood test, we will let you know the cost of test which is performed by the Total Doctors Laboratory. The costs vary depending on what is needed and is fully dependent on lab costs. If your child is very small, we may require you to have the blood taken by a specialist blood taking service which has separate costs. On some occasions, Dr Helen can ask your GP if they could consider arranging the blood tests on the NHS but not all GPs are able to arrange all allergy tests.
If extensive allergy tests are needed, or testing is needed for a virtual consultation, there is an option of using a home testing kit which requires a vial to be filled with a fingerprick of blood. This costs £350 and tests for 295 different allergens.
Like many things in life, no allergy test is 100% accurate – even eating the food in a hospital food challenge. This is because allergies are changeable and can sadly develop at any point in life, especially through early childhood. The most important thing an allergist should do when considering what tests are needed, is listen to the problem and then choose what tests are needed. Falsely positive and negative tests are possible, but Dr Helen will always fully explain what everything means for you and be available to answer any questions you may have.
Dr Helen will only carry out allergy tests in conjunction with a consultation to ensure that incorrect diagnoses are not made. Allergy tests can be falsely positive and should only be done to confirm an allergy when the medical history suggests this is the case. Allergy tests can also be negative and yet an allergy can exist. It is therefore vital that testing is only done after speaking to a specialist.
These types of tests are not validated methods of diagnosing IgE allergies (Choosing-wisely-ALTERNATIVE-TESTS.pdf (bsaci.org)). There is no singular test to diagnose an ‘intolerance’ as it depends on the mechanism involved which is causing the problem. For instance, lactose intolerance, can be tested for by a Hydrogen Breath test or genetic testing. To diagnose coeliac disease, which is thought to be an autoimmune condition, a different form of test would be needed. Not all intolerances are understood and therefore any company selling tests to diagnose all your intolerances, is misleading.
It is usually possible to arrange an appointment with Dr Helen within 1-2 weeks and if you cannot find a time that suits; Dr Helen is happy to liase to see if something can be arranged. Waiting times within the NHS vary depending on area. At best they are usually 6 months and at worse, in some areas, 18 months. Your own local GP is likely to be able to give you a clearer idea of this.
Oral immunotherapy is available from Dr Helen Allergy. This is a type of treatment which is offered to help ‘desensitise’ the immune system to various triggers such as grass pollen, cat, dog. For some individuals, this will offer a potential cure for their symptoms, and for others, it makes their reactions much more manageable. The immunotherapy is available as a drop or dissolvable tablet and is used for those with grass or tree pollen allergies, house dust mite allergies, cat, or dog allergies. Currently, the only licenced immunotherapy for food allergies is Palforzia which treats peanut allergy. This is licenced for children aged 4-17 years. Dr Helen can assess if Palforzia would be suitable for your child and arrange treatment with our partnering team at Southampton Children’s Hospital. For more information on immunotherapy, please click here. https://drhelenallergy.co.uk/immunotherapy/
Some insurance companies allow you to see any clinician of your choice and claim back your expenses directly from them. We are happy to see patients registered with companies like this, such as Vitality. Unfortunately, we do not work with other companies such as BUPA, who choose to pay us a lower price than our documented fees.