What is Allergy Testing?
When you are allergic, your body is reacting to a particular substance that should not normally bother you. These substances are called allergens. Typical allergens include pollens, dust mites, animal dander, foods, insect stings and even medicines. To determine which substances are triggering your symptoms, your allergist/immunologist will test your skin using tiny amounts of commonly troublesome allergens.
Allergy testing is generally very safe and effective. Under the guidance of a trained Allergist-Immunologist, allergen skin test is considered the Gold Standard for the diagnosis of allergy.
Who Should be Tested for Allergies?
People of all ages with symptoms that suggest they have allergic disease can be tested. These symptoms include:
Respiratory symptoms: Nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, wheezing, watery eyes, itchy eyes, nose, throat
Skin symptoms: Eczema, hives, itchiness
Abdominal symptoms: Abdominal pain and diarrhea after eating certain foods
Severe life threatening reactions, or anaphylaxis: This typically occurs with ingestions of foods or medication or insect stings (i.e. bees, wasps, fire ants)
Why is Allergy Testing Important?
Allergy testing is vital in identifying which substances are causing your allergies, allowing you and your Allergy Partners allergist/immunologist to more effectively manage your symptoms.
Treatment options can range anywhere from allergen avoidance (i.e. minimizing dust exposure) to allergen immunotherapy (i.e. allergy shots). Allergen immunotherapy helps your body to develop immunity or tolerance to allergens.
What Types of Allergy Tests are Available?
There are a few different types of allergy tests. These are the most common:
Prick technique: A small amount of allergen is introduced into the skin by making a small puncture with a plastic applicator through a drop of the allergen extract.
Intradermal technique: This test involves injecting a small amount of allergen under the skin with a very small syringe. This form of testing is done if the skin prick tests are negative.
Blood (Immunocap) tests: This test involves drawing blood to determine if you have allergic, or IgE, antibodies. This type of test is usually only performed if you cannot stop medications that interfere with skin tests, or if you have a diffuse rash, such as eczema or psoriasis.
The allergen extracts are manufactured commercially and are standardized according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.
As with any medical test, the results should be interpreted carefully and be coupled with a person’s history and physical exam. Allergy Partners allergists/immunologists are uniquely trained experts in the interpretation of allergy tests.
What Will Happen During Allergy Testing?
During your test, allergic antibodies will activate skin cells, called mast cells. Mast cells release chemicals, such as histamine, that cause swelling and redness, only in the areas where the allergens have touched your skin. This process usually only takes 15 minutes. The hives usually resolve within 30 minutes to one hour.
Is There Anything I Should Do Prior to Testing?
There are some medications, such as antihistamines, that interfere with allergy testing. Your doctor will ask you to stop these medications for several days prior to testing. If you are unsure if a medication will interact with the test, you should contact your Allergy Partners physician for guidance.
Is There Anything I Should Refrain From Doing after Testing?
There are no real limitations to one’s activity after testing. However, if you take a sedating antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine, you should avoid drinking alcohol or driving, as recommended on the bottle.