Allergy Testing

Allergy testing is a procedure used to determine if an individual is allergic to a particular substance or substances. It is also referred to as a skin prick test or blood testing. In allergy testing, a small amount of the allergen is administered through the patient’s skin.

Types of Allergy Testing

There are three main types of allergy testing. The most common is the skin prick test. The skin prick test involves a painless scratch or puncture of the skin, usually on an arm or the top of the back. This test is typically used for preliminary testing or when more than one allergen is suspected. The patient is tested for up to 40 substances. Often after the testing for the initial allergens, the patient may also have histamines or glycerin administered to check for resistance or sensitivity.

A skin injection tests for a particular substance and requires an injection with a needle, usually in the arm. This type of test typically produces faster results.

A patch test is suitable for children or others who may shy away from needles. The patch test also tests for a particular substance by applying a patch of the substance to the skin.

Allergens or Conditions Found With Testing

There are many allergies discovered during allergy testing. Some of the most common include:

  • Hay fever or rhinitis
  • Asthma
  • Dermatitis or eczema
  • Food allergies such as dairy or wheat
  • Penicillin
  • Bee venom
  • Latex
  • Dust

How to Prepare For Your Allergy Test

Due to the fact that allergy tests consist of dosing the patient with a small dosage of the allergen, many doctors recommend that the patient not take any medications which may interfere or contraindicate with the test for up to 10 days before the test. These medicines include over-the counter and prescription strength antihistamines such as Claritin and Allegra, antidepressants such as Pamelor and Norpramin, heartburn medications such as Tagamet and Zantac and other decongestants such as Benadryl. The allergist should have a list of all other medications the person is taking.

How the Procedure Works

A nurse will clean the area of the body before one of the three skin tests is administered. The testing and analysis only takes 30-40 minutes, Depending on the method the patient will be required to remain in the office 30 to 60 minutes in case of any adverse reactions.

Treatment may include allergy shots, medication, and avoiding the allergen.

Potential Risks

Some people are so severely allergic to certain substances they may have a life-threatening reaction or anaphylaxis even to a minuscule amount of the substance. If it is suspected a person may have a severe reaction, it is recommended they don’t stop taking allergy medications before the testing.

Allergy testing and subsequent treatment can significantly enhance the quality of life and may even be lifesaving.