Why Allergy Testing Is Performed
Allergies affect more than 50 million people living in the United States, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology . Inhaled allergens are by far the most common type.
The World Allergy Organization estimates that asthma is responsible for 250,000 deaths annually. These deaths can be avoided with proper allergy care, as asthma is considered an allergic disease process.
Allergy testing can determine which particular pollens, molds, or other substances youre allergic to. You may need medication to treat your allergies. Alternatively, you can try to avoid your allergy triggers.
What Happens During An Allergy Test
If your doctor thinks you might have an allergy, youll probably go see an allergist for testing.
Here’s what to expect. The allergist will ask questions like:
- What symptoms do you notice when you have a reaction?
- How often does the reaction happen?
- How long does it take between eating a particular food and the start of the symptoms?
- Do any family members have allergies or conditions like eczema and asthma?
The allergist will also do tests. Skin tests are a common way to diagnose allergies.
Does Insurance Pay For Allergy Tests
It depends on the policy. At Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, were happy to help you navigate the insurance process. We can reach out to your insurance company prior to your visit to determine if allergy testing and immunotherapy are covered by your health insurance policy, in case you might need either. Either way, well create cost estimates to avoid any billing surprises for you when its time to make test or treatment decisions. Every step of the way, we support you in making a confident, educated decision about your care.
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A Welcome To Our New Allergy Patients
Welcome to Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. We understand how much allergies can interfere with your daily routine, whether you suffer from seasonal allergies or if you have life-threatening allergies. You dont have to accept allergies as a way of life, however. Well help you find a better way.
After identifying the source of your allergy, well work with you to create an individualized treatment plan. Whether your allergy is mild or serious, we will offer you the care you need to manage your allergy and restore your quality of life. Our goal is to return a sense of normalcy to those who suffer from allergies with a treatment plan thats both effective and convenient.
Our entire team of physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners all specialize in allergies, asthma, and food allergies. Even in Charlotte where it seems that nearly everyone has allergies they understand how to identify and treat these allergies effectively.
Thank you for choosing Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. We look forward to working with you. If you have questions about allergy testing prior to your visit, we have compiled information to help you understand what to expect as you begin testing and treatment.
What Do The Results Of An Allergy Test Mean
Allergy test results may be:
- Negative: You arent allergic to that substance. Its rare to get a false negative allergy test result .
- Positive: Youre allergic to that substance. Note that even when tests correctly show that you have an allergy, it doesnt necessarily mean that youll react to that allergen. A false positive test result is possible, especially from a blood test. A false positive means the results show you have an allergy when you dont.
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Allergy Testing & Immunotherapy
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I expect after the allergy testing?
Once your allergy skin test is complete, your allergy clinician will talk with you about the allergies you have and what is the best treatment to manage them. You will be given information to take home and read about each of your allergies. We will schedule a visit to talk to your primary care provider about the skin test results and the best way to manage your allergies.
Why should I consider immunotherapy?
What are the long-term cost savings with immunotherapy?
A recent study demonstrated the following cost reductions from receiving Immunotherapy versus other treatment options without Immunotherapy:
Year 1: Symptoms Improve Year 2: Cost savings of 15% Year 3: Cost savings of 48%
Types Of Allergy Blood Tests
Allergy blood tests detect and measure the amount of allergen-specific antibodies in your blood. When you come into contact with an allergy trigger, known as an allergen, your body makes antibodies against it.
The antibodies tell cells in your body to release certain chemicals. These chemicals are what cause allergy symptoms. Immunoglobulin E is an antibody that’s strongly linked to the body’s allergy response.
Allergy blood tests usually screen for at least 10 of the most common allergy triggers, including dust, pet dander, trees, grasses, weeds, and molds related to where you live. They are also particularly helpful in diagnosing food allergies.
Allergy blood tests may be referred to as immunoassay tests and include:
- Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay
- Radioallergosorbent test
The ELISA test measures the amount of allergen-specific antibodies in your blood.
The RAST test also looks for specific allergen-related antibodies in order to identify your allergy triggers. Since the introduction of the ELISA test, RAST testing has not typically been used.
Allergies can cause an increase in certain types of white blood cells. Blood tests to check your white blood cell counts, including a count of a type of white cell called an eosinophil, may also be done if your doctor thinks you have allergies. However, it is important to keep in mind that many other health conditions can cause an increase in white blood cells.
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How Long Does Allergy Testing Take
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Skin Scratch Or Prick Test
The skin scratch test or skin prick test which also goes by the name of a Puncture Test. The test is used for checking for sudden allergic reactions as many as up to 40 allergens. Mostly it is for testing allergies that crop up due to allergens such as, pollen, mold, pet dander, dust mites, and foods. It is done on the forearm for the adults, while children have it done on their upper backs.
Since allergy skin tests are not at all painful when it comes to this type of allergy skin test needles or lancets that hardly enter the epidermis. One does not bleed or but they only have some slight discomfort. The area where the test is to be done on is cleaned using alcohol, then small drawings are made on the skin. A drop of the allergy causing substance I applied besides each mark. A needle is used in this case to ensure that the allergen is pierced into the surface of the skin. For each allergen being tested a new needle is used.
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What Other Tests Are Done To Look For Allergies
To diagnose a food allergy for sure, an allergist may do a blood test in addition to skin testing. This involves taking a small blood sample to send to a lab for analysis. The lab checks the blood for IgE antibodies to specific foods. If there are many IgE antibodies to a particular food, the person is very likely to be allergic to it.
Doctors often use a combination of skin testing and blood testing to diagnose a food allergy.
If the results of the skin and blood tests are still unclear, though, an allergist might do something called a food challenge. During this test, the person gets slowly increasing amounts of the potential food allergen to eat while the doctor watches for symptoms.
Because food allergies can trigger serious reactions in people, this test must be done in an allergist’s office or hospital that has access to medicines and specialists to control serious allergic reactions. Most of the time, this type of test is done to find out if someone has outgrown a known allergy.
How Does Allergy Testing Work
During allergy testing, your skin is exposed to small amounts of suspected allergens, which may include foods, pet dander, medication, or environmental allergens. Doctors supervise your skins reaction, theyll determine which substance or substances is causing the allergic reaction. From there, doctors work with you to create a management plan thats effective and convenient for you.
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Why Do Healthcare Providers Perform Allergy Tests
Your healthcare provider may perform an allergy test if you have allergy symptoms that bother you. Providers also perform allergy tests on people who have asthma. The test can identify allergy triggers that can worsen asthma symptoms or bring on an asthma attack.
You may also need a test if youve had a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This potentially life-threatening problem can cause hives or swelling, breathing difficulty and/or a sharp drop in blood pressure that brings on anaphylactic shock. Your health history along with allergy testing is used to determine the cause of severe reaction. If you have had an anaphylactic reaction or may be at risk for one, then you may need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector to treat the symptoms.
The Wrong Test Can Be A Waste Of Money
Allergy tests can cost a lot. A skin allergy test can cost $60 to $300. A blood test can cost $200 to $1,000. A blood test for food allergies can cost hundreds of dollars, and testing for chronic hives can cost thousands of dollars. Your health insurance may not cover the costs of these tests. And without a doctors exam, the test may not even tell you what is causing your symptoms or how to treat them.
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Beginning Your Allergy Treatment At Caac
We dont just treat allergies we care for patients. Please share with us any concerns or questions you may have about testing or treatments. We want you to feel comfortable in the process and confident in your treatment plan. Our goal is to help restore your quality of life to breathe, live, and ultimately thrive whatever your allergy and whatever your age.
Since 1952, weve served the Charlotte community with specialized care for those who deal with allergies and asthma. All of our physicians are trained and board certified in allergy, asthma, and immunology from the American Board of Allergy and Immunology . This requires a two- to three-year fellowship in allergy/immunology, on top of the medical residency. These physicians are supported by a team of physician assistants and nurse practitioners who are also specialists in the field.
When you come for your first appointment, it will likely be longer than subsequent appointments. It may be up to three hours, and the appointment will likely include a consultation as well as testing. Weve learned from patients that combining these appointments into one longer appointment can be both cost effective and convenient, reducing copays and return trips to our office.
We look forward to meeting with you and putting you on the path to a successful allergy treatment.
How It Is Done
The health professional doing the skin prick or intradermal test will:
- Clean the test site with alcohol.
- Place drops of the about 1 in. to 2 in. apart. This allows many substances to be tested at the same time.
- Prick the skin under each drop with a needle. The needle passes through the drop and allows some of the allergen to penetrate your skin. For the intradermal test, a needle is used to inject the allergen solution deeper into the skin.
- Check the skin after 12 to 15 minutes for red, raised itchy areas called wheals. If a wheal forms, it means you are possibly allergic to that allergen .
Another skin prick method uses a device with 5 to 10 points , which are dipped into bottles that contain the allergen extract. This device is pressed against the skin of the forearm or back so that all heads are pressed into the skin at the same time.
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Allergy Skin Test Side Effects
Itchiness The test may lead to mild itchiness of the skin, the skin turning red, and at times the skin may become swollen. Tiny bump-like wheals may occur on the skins surface.
Fever Fever after an allergy skin test is due to the skin reacting to the allergens used in the test and an indication of an allergic reaction to the different allergens used for the test
Sickness Feeling sick after an allergy skin test may be an indication that a person is suffering from the side effects of the test. Creams should be used to stop all this.
The effects may be felt for some hours up to some days. Some creams are used to alleviate these effects. Though not common, the side effects may be in the form of a sudden extreme allergic reaction that may need one to seek further treatment.
How Do I Know If I Need An Allergy Test
If youre allergic to allergens in the air like dust, pollen or pet dander, you may develop allergic rhinitis. Also known as hay fever, this allergic reaction causes:
Food allergy symptoms typically occur within 30 minutes of food ingestion but may occur up to two hours after ingestion. People with food allergies may experience:
- Skin symptoms such as hives, swelling of the face, lips or tongue, generalized itching.
- Respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest or throat tightness.
- GI symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Cardiovascular symptoms such as pale skin, weak pulse, dizziness or lightheadedness.
A patch test, performed by a dermatologist, is used to diagnose these types of reactions.
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How To Prepare For An Allergy Skin Test
- The doctor will always ask their patient detailed questions concerning their medical history. The skin signs and symptoms from any allergy they have been exposed to before and how they always treat them. These questions are for helping the doctor if the condition of having allergic reactions runs in the patients family. They can also assist in determining the most likely cause of the symptoms.
- The examiner or doctor may also carry out a physical test to look for more signs for the cause of the patients signs and symptoms.
- The doctor or examiner requires the patient to bring them all the prescriptions or over-the-counter medications they are currently prescribed to or use. This is in order to see if the current drugs they are using can hinder the true results of the tests since some do. Other medications may lead to the patient suffering from extreme cases of allergic reactions during the test.
- The examiner or doctor may ask the doctor to stop using the drugs for a period of about ten days so as to clear out of their body systems. The ten days period is for making sure that the body system is clear of the drugs since each type of drugs clear out of the body at different rates.
What Is Percutaneous And Intradermal Testing
Percutaneous testing also known as an allergy skin prick can determine which allergens people are allergic to. During a skin prick test, allergens are placed on a patients skin and the skin is lightly scratched. After 15 minutes, the skin is checked for a reaction. We test for potential allergens such as environmental allergens, foods, insect venom, and medications.
If the skin prick test is negative, your doctor may conduct intradermal testing. This type of allergy test is done by injecting allergens under the skin. After 15 minutes, the skin is checked for a reaction. Patients who experience minor or negative reactions to allergy tests often experience minimal to no pain. Individuals who experience positive reactions may experience itching or red bumps that subside with time.
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Food Allergy Testing: What Does The Process Involve
We are all familiar with allergies. Whether its allergies that come with the change of seasons, allergies to cats or dogs, or allergies to foods that include common allergens like gluten or dairy, most people have experienced allergies in one form or another. Sometimes, its obvious what is causing our allergies we come into contact with a dog or dust and start sneezing. But other times, it isnt so easy to find what is causing your discomfort. Thats where food allergy testing comes in. And you can get all your allergy testing and treatment at Asthma Allergy Center, in greater Portland, OR.