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Allergy Testing: Types & Benefits
Allergies are very common, with more than 50 million people in the United States experiencing an allergy of some kind.1
Some allergens are noticeable, such as pollen, which can cause people with seasonal allergies to sneeze while they’re outside in the spring. Other times, it can be difficult to determine whether it’s a food, substance, or environmental factor that is causing an allergic reaction.
If you or a loved one experience frequent allergic reactions, it may be time to schedule an allergy test. It’s important to identify the allergens that are causing your allergic reaction in order to prevent and treat it.
What is Allergy Testing?
Allergy testing involves a series of tests to identify allergens that are causing someone to experience allergic reactions.2 People experience many different allergies, whether it’s caused by the environment (such as mold), a food (like peanuts), or another substance.3
Allergy tests will show if your immune system overacts when exposed to certain allergens. If there is a reaction during the test or the time shortly after, then you have an allergy.
Allergy tests are necessary if someone has asthma. It’s important to know what allergens trigger an allergic reaction because they can potentially cause an asthma attack or make an attack worse.
How Do I know If I Need an Allergy Test?
There are various reasons an individual may request an allergy test. Doctors will also recommend an allergy test if they believe that it is necessary to identify an allergen for medical purposes.
If you’re questioning whether or not to get an allergy test, ask yourself these three questions:
- How often does the allergy bother you? If your allergy symptoms last longer than two weeks, or if you experience reactions very frequently, you might want to get tested.
- Does over-the-counter medicine help? If so, you might not need a diagnosis or prescription medicine. However, if you cannot find relief with over-the-counter medicine, consider an allergy test so you can receive better treatment for your symptoms.
- Are you still bothered even when you’re not in contact with that allergen? If you believe you’re avoiding what you’re allergic to yet still experience a reaction, you might need an allergy test to confirm what allergen you’re allergic to.4
- Suspicions of a food allergy. If you have a reaction during or after eating, your doctor may ask you to take an allergy test. Some food allergy reactions include a rash, swelling of the lips or tongue, coughing, wheezing, nausea, and dizziness.
- Skin reactions. If you notice a change in your skin that occurs frequently or lasts a long time, an allergy test can determine if you’re allergic to certain substances. Common skin allergies include latex, fragrances, or metals.
- Asthma. If you have asthma and experience allergic reactions or asthma attacks regularly, your doctor will want to make sure you’re aware of allergens that can worsen your health.
If you experience frequent or severe allergies, it’s important to make sure you get tested. Your diagnosis will help your doctor come up with a treatment plan for you, whether that is to refrain from an allergen or use a prescription medication to lessen symptoms.
What Happens During an Allergy Test?
Allergy testing will be different depending on the type of test you get. Here are the two types of allergy tests.
Allergy Skin Test
An allergy skin test is the most common type of allergy test.6 Skin tests determine whether you’re allergic to environmental allergens such as pollen, pets, and dust mites. An allergy skin test may also be used to check for certain food allergies, however, this may require more complex testing.
An allergy skin test can diagnose sensitivities to multiple conditions including:
- Hay fever (seasonal allergies)
- Insects (such as a bee sting)
When it comes to allergy skin tests, there are a variety of options a doctor may use.
- A skin prick test is used to identify allergic reactions to approximately 50 different substances, including pollen, mold, and pets.7 This test is usually done on the forearm with a needle that slightly penetrates the skin and exposes you to different allergens. Bumps that appear can indicate a reaction.
- A skin injection test is performed by injecting a small amount of an allergen into the skin. This is commonly used to test for a reaction to insects or penicillin.
- A patch test is used to determine if a certain substance is causing an allergic reaction.8 An individual will wear patches on the arm or back with different allergens for 48 hours. They will then return to their doctor and remove the patches to see if there is any irritation for certain allergens.
An allergy blood test involves a single prick that can test for numerous different allergies. Generally, it will take longer to get results, and there is also the risk of false positives.
Blood tests are a great option for those with sensitive skin or if someone has a reaction to a skin allergy test.5
An allergy blood test will measure the amount of IgE antibodies in the blood, and if there’s a large amount, then you most likely have an allergy.9 IgE is short for immunoglobulin E, which are antibodies produced by the immune system.10 With an allergy, your immune system will overproduce these antibodies.
What Happens After the Allergy Test?
Depending on your results, the steps taken after an allergy test will vary.
If you tested positive to have an allergy to a certain allergen, your doctor will review a treatment plan with you.11 This could range from avoiding that allergen or taking medication if necessary. Allergy shots are also an option for those who need them.
If you did not receive clear results, your doctor may want to do further testing to determine the cause of your allergic reactions.
Take Care of Your Allergies
Allergy testing is the best option if you experience frequent allergic reactions, and it is necessary if you have severe reactions. Talk with your doctor about your allergy concerns and if allergy testing is an option for you.
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Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Testing and Diagnosis.” American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, acaai.org. Accessed January 6th, 2022. https://acaai.org/allergies/testing-diagnosis/.
- “Allergy Testing.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org. Accessed January 6th, 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/21495-allergy-testing.
- “All About Allergy Testing.” American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, aaaai.org. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/all-about-allergy-testing.
- “Should You Have Allergy Testing? Ask Yourself These Three Questions.” Raleigh Medical Group, raleighmedicalgroup.com. July 25th, 2018. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://www.raleighmedicalgroup.com/blog/should-i-get-allergy-tested/.
- Hill, Lisa. “How Does a Doctor Diagnose an Allergy?” WebMD, webmd.com. February 6th, 2021. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-test-facts.
- “Allergy Skin Tests.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/allergy-tests/about/pac-20392895.
- Morris, Susan. “What Is a Skin Prick Test?” Healthline Media, healthline.com. June 6th, 2018. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/skin-prick-test-accuracy.
- “Allergy Patch Testing – Do You Need It?” Allergy & ENT Associates, aentassociates.com. February 26th, 208. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://www.aentassociates.com/allergy-patch-testing-do-you-need-it/.
- “Allergy Blood Test.” National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/allergy-blood-test/.
- “Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Defined.” American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, aaaai.org. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://www.aaaai.org/Tools-for-the-Public/Allergy,-Asthma-Immunology-Glossary/Immunoglobulin-E-(IgE)-Defined.
- Pichardo, Gabriela. “If You Get Skin Testing for Allergies.” WebMD, webmd.com. November 12th, 2020. Accessed January 7th, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/skin-test.