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Am I Really Allergic?

The author had an inkling that she might be mildly allergic to cats but wasn’t sure. Before dosing up at the local Duane Reade, she went to four medical offices to get pricked, prodded, sensored, and shot.

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1. ImmunoCap Blood Test
Conducted by internist Steven Lamm at his office (212-988-1146); approx. $600 for the initial visit and tests. Insurance typically covers.
The Procedure:
Blood is drawn and checked for antibodies that indicate sensitivity to allergens. Results are returned within a few days (mine took a week).
The Results:
The needle stuck in my arm was maybe 1.5 inches, but it felt longer, because the clinician had to leave it in for several minutes while she filled three vials with my blood. Only common timothy grass, found in all 50 states, came back positiveóbut not cats. Lamm thought my feline-induced symptoms could be too weak to register. He didn’t see any reason for me to medicate.

2. Prick Test
Conducted by allergist-immunologist Clifford Bassett at Allergy & Asthma Care of New York (212-260-6078); approx. $300 for visit and tests. Insurance typically covers.
The Procedure:
Forearms are pricked with plastic tips dipped in dust, pollen, and other triggers. Redness, swelling, and itching indicate allergies.
The Results:
The prick itself wasn’t bad, but within a few minutes, the grass-infected patches itched like crazy. When I showed no reaction to cats, Bassett injected cat allergen under my skin with a syringe. The site turned into an itchy mound like a fresh mosquito bite. Bassett concluded I have mild sensitivities to cats and grass and suggested antihistamines.

3. Muscle Testing With Kinesiology
Conducted by chiropractor-nutritionist Frederick Mindel at HolisticNYC (212-223-8683); $195 for the initial visit; $105 for each additional visit. Insurance sometimes covers.
The Procedure: Allergen-filled vials are placed on the patient’s head; the tester pushes against the patient’s arm. Weakening indicates a sensitivity.
The Results:
A few vials seemed to have a real effect (cat dander, mold, oats, and coffee); it became genuinely harder to push my arm up. I’m not convinced (I eat oatmeal and drink coffee all the time), but the fact that I could feel myself weaken was spooky. Mindel recommended acupressure and herbal supplements.

4. Muscle Testing With BioElectral Impedance
Conducted by acupuncturist Roberta Mittman at the Park Avenue Center for Wellbeing (212-686-0939); $225 for the initial visit, $120 for each additional visit. Insurance doesn’t cover.
The Procedure:
The patient holds a sensor against one palm while a penlike transmitter, which supposedly measures reactivity, is tapped against the other.
The Results:
While Mittman touched the pen-thingy to my hand, I watched the frequencies waver. The lines went off course for cat dander, but also for sugar and berries, which made me skeptical. Then she hit coffee and mold: Interesting. She recommended acupressure or acupuncture.


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