Allergy Testing: What It Is and What to Expect
Do you suspect you have an allergy? You are not alone. More than 50 million Americans experience allergies every year.
Common allergy symptoms include sneezing, rashes, a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and stomach cramps. What happens when you experience allergy symptoms but do not know the source?
It is always best to know the source of allergies, as there are so many different types. Common allergies include food allergies and seasonal allergies, such as pollen. One of the best ways to check allergies is with allergy testing.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about allergy testing.
What Is Allergy Testing?
Allergy testing helps to determine if you have an allergy. It tests if your immune system reacts to specific allergens. Allergies occur when your immune system is overreacting to a particular stimulus.
Common allergies include:
- Pet dander
Allergies include contact allergies, ingested allergies such as food allergies, and inhaled allergies such as pollen. Allergy testing is performed by a specialist who can control the allergic reaction. Only a tiny amount of the substance is used to confirm whether you have an allergy or not.
Types of Allergy Testing
There are different types of allergy testing depending on your suspected allergy. Your health care provider will determine the best kind of allergy testing for your case. Common types of allergy testing include:
A patch test is an allergy test for contact dermatitis. It is a standard test because over 30 million people experience a form of eczema.
The patch test involves drops of the allergen being put on your arm, then covered by a bandage, or the specialist will apply a patch with the allergen on your arm. Usually, the patch or dressing stays on for 48 to 96 hours to see if you react.
Skin Prick (Scratch) Test
One of the most common types of allergy testing is a scratch test, which tests for airborne allergies, food allergies, and penicillin allergies. The healthcare provider will use a thin needle to prick your skin or use droplets with a device that scratches your skin, so the droplets enter. Usually, they will test out anything from ten to fifty allergens.
Allergic reactions appear quickly with this test. It usually takes around ten to fifteen minutes for an allergic reaction to occur. Common reactions include a rash or itchy swollen bumps called wheals.
Blood (IgE) Test
An allergen-specific immunoglobulin E blood test is another way to test for different allergies. Your blood sample will be examined in a lab, where they will measure levels of IgE antibodies, which can indicate whether there is an allergy. Sometimes blood tests are used alongside skin prick tests.
Intradermal Skin Test
An intradermal skin test is when a small allergen is injected into your skin. You then wait and see if there is a reaction. Usually, it is used to test for venom allergies such as bees or penicillin allergies.
A challenge test requires specialist medical supervision as the patient swallows some of the suspected allergies. If you develop a severe allergic reaction, there is the right medication on hand. Sometimes this test is used for asthma.
Why Allergy Testing Is Important
If you have an allergy that bothers you, an allergy test can help determine the cause. The sooner you know the cause of your allergy, the sooner you can take the right action to control it. Your specialist will prescribe the best medications and plan to help you.
Allergies can also cause severe allergic reactions, including life-threatening anaphylaxis. Allergy testing can also determine if an allergy has eased or if you have outgrown it. Allergy testing can help you know whether a specific trigger is still a risk.
How to Prepare for Allergy Testing
There are several steps you must take to prepare for allergy testing. Usually, the medical specialist will start by assessing your medical history, allergy signs, and symptoms.
Your doctor will assess if there is a genetic cause for your allergies and also determine what allergy test is best for you. They may carry out a physical examination to look for allergy signs.
You will also be asked to stop taking certain medications before your allergy tests, such as antihistamines and heartburn medications, up to a week before your allergy testing. Usually, you can continue taking certain medications, such as asthma medication.
What to Expect During Allergy Testing
Your doctor will ensure you are comfortable before allergy testing. Patients only experience mild discomfort from the tests and allergy symptoms. Allergy symptoms are generally mild, such as itching and a skin rash.
Symptoms such as a rash from the patch test will subside once your provider treats the rash. Your body may have a severe anaphylaxis reaction on rare occasions, which may happen during intradermal or challenge testing. Your provider will be ready with epinephrine and emergency care to address this reaction if it occurs.
When you receive the results will depend on the allergy test. They may tell you on the day, or your provider will arrange a follow-up appointment.
What Happens Next
Allergy results will either be negative or positive. If you have a positive reaction, your provider will create a specialized plan to manage your response. Your plan may involve daily allergy medications, allergy shots, and minimum exposure to the allergen to avoid a reaction.
You may also carry a medical alert card or an epinephrine injection (EpiPen), depending on the allergy and its severity.
Get Help for Your Allergies
If you suspect you have allergies, it is best to get professional help. Your primary care physician will assess your personal case and determine the best treatment route, which may include allergy testing.
It is essential to pick a reputable provider to ensure you get the best allergy testing and treatment. Brown & Toland Physicians are here to help you in the Bay Area. We offer various services and have a network of the Bay Area’s top physicians, so you can get the allergy care you need.
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The content of this Website or Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website or Blog.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care.