Allergy Testing Questions and Answers
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Allergies are extremely common and affect the lives of millions of people every day. While most allergies are mild and do not cause danger to someone’s life, some allergies are serious and require medical attention immediately. From runny and stuffy noses to hive breakouts and rashes, allergies come in all shapes and sizes.
How do you get tested for allergies?
There are two main types of allergy tests — skin tests and blood tests:
Skin Test — A skin test (also referred to as a scratch test) is the most common type of allergy test available. With this test, the doctor or nurse will put a small amount of an allergen (such as pollen or food) on the skin, then make a small scratch on or prick the outer layer of the skin. If the area swells up and becomes red (similar to how a mosquito bite affects the skin), the test is said to be positive, meaning that the individual is allergic to that substance. Skin testing allows the doctor to see within about 15 minutes if an individual is allergic to the substances tested.
Blood Test — A blood test may be used if a skin test cannot be performed. It takes a few days to get the results from a blood test. Allergy blood testing is recommended if you:
- Are using a medicine known to interfere with test results and the cessation of its use cannot be sustained for a few days; this would include antihistamines, certain antidepressants and steroids.
- Cannot cope with the needle scratches required for skin testing
- Have an unstable heart condition
- Have poorly controlled asthma
- Have severe psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, or another severe skin condition
- Might have an extreme allergic reaction during skin testing or have a history of life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis
What is the most effective allergy test?
Allergy blood tests are not wholly reliable, too often giving false positives — mistakenly identifying an allergy where none exists. In food allergy testing, this is especially true. In a clinical study performed in 2007, researchers found that blood tests can both overestimate and underestimate the immune system’s response to an allergen. With food allergies in particular, blood tests may have trouble distinguishing between similar proteins found in different foods. This can lead to “positive” tests for allergies to foods that in reality do not cause allergic symptoms whatsoever. In addition, blood tests are generally more expensive than skin tests.
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) blood tests, also known as RAST or radioallergosorbent tests, are used only when skin tests cannot be performed, such as when taking certain medications that would interfere with the results or if you have a skin condition that could impede the outcome of the test. Doctors may also perform “challenge tests” when investigating suspected food allergies, in which a small amount of the food (or drug) that is believed to be responsible for symptoms is given orally (or sometimes inhaled). Because of the risk of a severe reaction, these tests always require close medical supervision.
The skin (or skin prick) tests involve placing a small amount of an allergen into the skin via a tiny needle puncture. If you are allergic to the allergen, you will develop redness, bumps and/or swelling at the site of the prick. This typically occurs within 15 minutes and usually disappears with half an hour. In other cases, doctors or allergists will inject a small amount of an allergen under the skin, which is more sensitive than prick testing. This can be performed if a prick test is negative, but requires some sort of documentation of allergy symptoms in response to the substance for which you are being tested.
Should I get an allergy test?
If you are experiencing an allergic reaction and are unsure of the cause, you should get an allergy test. This will help you determine what is causing your reactions so you can take preventative measures to avoid the allergic triggers.
If you or someone you know is experiencing allergic symptoms but are unsure of the cause, come to Niagara Falls Urgent Care today! Our kind and compassionate professionals are experienced in allergy testing and can help you determine what is causing your allergies. For more information on our allergy testing, call our office and get in touch with a member of our specialist team. To book an appointment with our allergy specialist, visit our website or speak with us over the phone today.
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