Get the Testing and Diagnosis You Need from Allergies Answered
When you suffer from allergies, you’re always just a second away from having a bright, beautiful day turn into an itchy, stuffy, miserable mess. A walk down the street, eating at a restaurant, getting stung by an insect, or coming in contact with a latex glove can completely disrupt your world without you knowing the true cause or how to prevent it. Before you know it, you break out in hives, your face begins to swell, and your nose starts to run.
Allergy symptoms can make your days miserable and take a toll on your long-term health. They can even be life-threatening (anaphylaxis). Each year, around 200,000 people in the U.S. are sent to the emergency room due to an allergic reaction. These hospital visits and the scary, painful reactions these patients experience to allergens are almost always preventable. If you’re experiencing allergy symptoms, you should consult with your doctor immediately.
How does allergy testing work
Before an allergy can be treated, it needs to be tested to discover what the allergy is and the severity of your reaction to it. There are many allergens, which makes testing important to find uncommon and rare allergies that come seemingly come out of nowhere and jeopardize your health. While there are several types of allergy tests, no test is perfectly accurate. Testing should be conducted by a trained and intuitive allergy specialist.
The specialist will ask you to list and describe your symptoms, perform an exam, and recommend specific tests to see what allergens you react to and if they are allergies or something less concerning, like a light sensitivity to an allergen. Allergy tests seek to discover what allergens you react to, meaning that you will be exposed to a wide variety of common allergens, and you may have one or several allergic reactions from tests. However, testing uses a very small amount of each substance to minimize the impact.
The test results provide a piece of the overall puzzle of your allergies that your doctor will put together.
What tests diagnose allergies
Based on your doctor’s recommendations, one or several allergy tests may be ordered to diagnose your allergies properly. Tests can be conducted in your physician’s office or at a hospital due to the risk of a severe reaction, while rare.
Allergy tests that can diagnose your allergies include:
- Prick: Allergens are applied to your skin through a “prick.” Your skin’s reaction to the allergen will reveal if you have an allergic reaction and to what degree.
- Intradermal: Allergens can also be placed under your skin through intradermal testing, which is known to be more sensitive than a prick test. Intradermal is often used to test for your reaction to insect stings.
- Patch: Skin patch tests involve placing allergens on pads and taping them to your skin. This test is ordered to determine if you have eczema (contact dermatitis) caused by several allergens.
- IgE/RAST: Allergies occur when your immune system’s antibodies fight against allergens that they deem to be harmful to your health. The RAST test analyzes your antibodies to see what you’re allergic to.
These are the most common types of tests, although your care provider may also test for food and medication allergies using alternative methods.