Types Of Skin Allergy Tests
There are several different types of skin tests used by the medical community in the diagnosis of allergies. Each of these tests comes with its own pros and cons. Some tests are better for assessing certain conditions, for example, while other tests are a better fit for certain patients.
Some conditions, too, including food allergies, are more diagnostically complex and may require additional testing beyond just a skin test. Determining which test is the best option for you should be done in close consultation with your doctor or allergist.
What To Take Away
The first meeting with the allergist can contain a lot of new information, so Bassett suggests getting reliable materials that you can take home and read at your leisure.
Dont forget to ask for additional resources such as educational websites and patient handouts on a variety of allergy conditions, he says.
Will I Need To Do Anything To Prepare For The Test
You may need to stop taking certain medicines before the test. These include antihistamines and antidepressants. Your health care provider will let you know which medicines to avoid before your test and how long to avoid them.
If your child is being tested, the provider may apply a numbing cream to his or her skin before the test.
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Signs That You May Need Food Allergy Testing
Different individuals exhibit different symptoms from each other when they are experiencing food allergies. If you have any of the following symptoms, its a good idea to have allergy testing done:
- Persistent eczema
- Tingling in your throat or mouth after eating
- Repeatedly getting hives or itchy skin
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, or throat after eating
- Wheezing, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain or digestive problems
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting after eating
If you experience severe food allergy reactions, such as difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, or rapid pulse, you need emergency care immediately.Schedule a food allergy test today if you think you may be experiencing symptoms.
What Should I Expect During An Allergy Test
The purpose of skin tests is to see how your body responds to allergens. If you have an allergic reaction, youll develop a reaction at the site of the test. Rarely patients may have mild allergy symptoms such as itchy skin, watery eyes and congestion. Most symptoms clear up in one to two hours after the test, the redness or wheals may remain for several more hours.
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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.
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.
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Preparing For Skin Testing
Prescription and non-prescription antihistamine medications interfere with skin testing. Please review the list of commonly used allergy, cough and cold medications below and make sure these are discontinued before your skin testing visit.
Continue other daily medications including: asthma inhalers, montelukast , and nasal steroids .
If you are unable to stop antihistamines because of the severity of your symptoms, please keep your appointment. Another approach to testing will be considered by your provider.
If you are not certain whether the medication you are taking is an antihistamine, are concerned about discontinuing your medications, or if you have any other questions, please contact the UCSF Allergy/Immunology Clinic at 353-2725.
- Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin, Claritin-D, Claritin Rev
- Azelastine HCL Nasal Spray
- Dymista Nasal Spray
- Olopatadine HCL Nasal Spray
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
What To Check In Advance
Leading up to that first visit, speak to your doctor or allergist to ensure that you are not taking any medications that could cause problems at your appointment.
Some types of medications interfere with skin-prick testing, especially antihistamines, says Dr. David Stukus, a pediatric allergist and director of the food allergy center at Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Ohio. You may be asked to stop using these medications for around five days before seeing the allergist to prepare for testing.
Stukus stresses, however, that its important to ask your health-care provider before discontinuing any medications. For instance, medicines such as asthma inhalers, should not be stopped.
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How Do I Prepare For An Allergy Test
Talk to your healthcare provider about all medicines you take. Some medicines may keep the allergy test from working correctly. You may need to stop taking certain medicines days, weeks, or months before your test. Examples include antihistamines, topical steroids, and medicines to stop vertigo or relieve insomnia. Your provider will tell you if you need to stop any medicine, and when to stop it. He or she will also tell you when you can start taking the medicine again after your allergy test.
Medications You Must Avoid Prior To Allergy Testing
This includes over-the-counter allergy/sinus/cold medications that contain an antihistamine.
You can use decongestants such as Sudafed , if you do not have hypertension, or Afrin topically for no more than 4 consecutive days, and continue to use steroid nasal sprays such as:
You may also continue to use Atrovent nasal spray. Ask our office or your pharmacist if you are not certain about a given medicine.
If you are taking any anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications listed above DO NOT stop taking them. Contact our office and we will work with you to contact your prescribing physician to discuss if these medications can be discontinued prior to allergy testing.
Aspirin / NSAID Products
- Alka Seltzer products with aspirin
- Goodys Powder
Beta Blockers Oral
Beta Blockers Topical Ophthalmic Preparations
- AK-Beta/Betagan Liquifilm
- Oral Albuterol Sulfate tablet
If you are taking ORAL Albuterol sulfate for Asthma Contact our office and we will work with you to contact your prescribing physician to discuss if this can be discontinued 4 days prior to your allergy testing.
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The Risks Of Allergy Testing
Allergy tests may result in mild itching, redness, and swelling of the skin. Sometimes, small bumps called wheals appear on the skin.
These symptoms often clear up within hours but may last for a few days. Mild topical steroid creams can alleviate these symptoms.
On rare occasions, allergy tests produce an immediate, severe allergic reaction that requires medical attention. Thats why allergy tests should be conducted in a doctors office that has adequate medications and equipment, including epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life threatening acute allergic reaction.
Call 911 immediately if you have symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as:
- swelling of the throat
What Will Happen After My Allergy Test
- You and your healthcare provider will talk about the results of your allergy test. If you had a positive test result, this means you showed signs of an allergic reaction to an allergen. You and your provider can talk about any additional tests you may need. The tests can find how severe the allergy is and if you may need medicine to prevent or control a reaction. This is called an action plan.
- Rarely, after a prick or intradermal test, you may develop signs of an allergic reaction. Depending on the kind of test you had, you will need to watch for signs of an allergic reaction. This can happen within hours of an allergy test. Your healthcare provider will tell you what to do if you have a reaction. You may need to take an antihistamine or other medicine to stop the reaction.
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Things You Can Do To Prepare For Allergy Testing
The best thing to do before going in for food allergy testing is to relax. The process is simple, and once its done you can rest easier knowing that youre on the path to eliminating annoying or dangerous symptoms associated with eating certain foods.
You can also ask your gastroenterologist or nurse practitioner to write you a prescription for a numbing cream.
Applying the cream to your back before testing can help to reduce the amount of itching you feel from being exposed to the antigens. It also reduces how much you feel the prick of the applicator points, though most people dont find them too painful.
What To Expect At A Food Allergy Test
A lot of people get nervous about food allergy testing if they dont know what its like. You may worry that the tests will be scary or painful. Thats not typically the case.
In fact, youll likely find that it is more comfortable than you imagined it to be.
Its also much faster than most people expect less than one minute to complete the actual testing.
Food allergy testing involves pressing an applicator against your back. The applicator has multiple points that expose your skin to various antigens.Now, that doesnt mean youll be in and out of the office in five minutes. Youll need to wait for them to process your results and discuss your food allergies with you afterward. Also, the application of the testing takes very little time, but the medical staff will want you to stay in the office so they can watch any reactions develop.
For some people, a food allergy may take a while before symptoms appear. And some symptoms onset gradually.
If you test positive for food allergies, a medical professional will discuss how to avoid that food and what to do if you ingest it and have a reaction.
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What Happens After The Skin Allergy Test
After your skin allergy test, your allergist will carefully review your results with you. This will include developing a treatment plan, as well as an action plan that can help you avoid exposure to triggering allergens. Avoiding exposure to allergens is the primary line of defense in treating any allergen, regardless of your diagnosis.
If a severe reaction to an allergen is confirmed, you may also need to discuss additional interventions, such as injectable epinephrine. Your allergist may also recommend lifestyle changes that can help limit your exposure to dangerous allergens, including changes to your home, workplace, or daily habits.
Do Skin Allergy Tests Hurt
Skin allergy tests can cause some itching, light pain, and inflammation. This is because the body is having a histamine response to the allergen and is actually providing the allergist with the information they need to confirm a diagnosis. If the pain and discomfort associated with a skin allergy test is severe, patients should contact their allergist immediately.
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How To Prepare Your Child For Allergy Testing
Testing for allergies can be an anxious time for your kids. Here’s what to expect at the doctor’s office.
Getting ready Whats the best advice for parents wanting to prep their kids for allergy testing? Dont! laughs Carr. You may only raise your childs anxiety todays skin-prick tests are about as hard to take as a mosquito bite and she may not need a blood test at all. Thats an important message for parents who recall multiple painful injections from their own childhood. I have such awful memories of my testing, says Melanie Bertrand, who admits she was nervous when her son Cameron was tested at 20 months. But his allergy testing was nothing like I remembered.
Roberts says that some children are irritated by the itching that may accompany a positive skin test. But the skin punctures can be done very quickly, with minimal discomfort. But do make sure your kid hasnt taken anything containing antihistamine including cold medicine for several days beforehand or it can alter the results.
Whats next? Your child will need follow-ups to evaluate new allergy symptoms environmental allergies often peak in the teen years or to check if old allergies have been outgrown. Theres never a kid with allergies where we would say, youre done, never come back, Carr says. Most kids with milk and egg allergies will outgrow them, and one in five peanut-allergic kids will lose this allergy as well.
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How The Test Is Performed
There are three common methods of allergy skin testing.
The skin prick test involves:
- Placing a small amount of substances that may be causing your symptoms on the skin, most often on the forearm, upper arm, or back.
- The skin is then pricked so the allergen goes under the skin’s surface.
- The health care provider closely watches the skin for swelling and redness or other signs of a reaction. Results are usually seen within 15 to 20 minutes.
- Several allergens can be tested at the same time. Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction.
The intradermal skin test involves:
- Injecting a small amount of allergen into the skin.
- The provider then watches for a reaction at the site.
- This test is more likely to be used to find out if you’re allergic to bee venom or penicillin. Or it may be used if the skin prick test was negative and the provider still thinks that you’re allergic to the allergen.
Patch testing is a method to diagnose the cause of skin reactions that occur after the substance touches the skin:
- Possible allergens are taped to the skin for 48 hours.
- The provider will look at the area in 72 to 96 hours.
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What Is Allergy Testing
Allergy testing is a way to find out if you are allergic to something, called an allergen. Common allergens include pet dander, pollen, insect bites or stings, and certain foods, such as peanuts. Your healthcare provider will use an allergy test to check your body’s response to the allergen. During the test, he or she will watch for small skin reactions that show you are probably allergic. He or she will also watch for a rare but serious reaction that needs immediate treatment. You will need to watch for a reaction that develops later, after you are home.
How To Prepare For Allergy Testing
Before your allergy test, your doctor will ask you about your lifestyle, family history, and more.
Theyll most likely tell you to stop taking the following medications before your allergy test because they can affect the test results:
- prescription and over-the-counter antihistamines
An allergy test may involve either a skin test or a blood test.
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Types Of Allergy Testing:
Our allergists diagnose allergies in children with the combination of an allergy skin test or scratch test and patient medical history. Allergy skin testing involves a simple series of tiny scratches on the back using a small instrument similar to a small plastic toothpick. Each toothpick contains trace amounts of an allergen. We test for a variety of environmental allergens such as tree, weed, and grass pollen, as well as, pet dander and molds. If you have a specific allergen you would like to be tested for, please let our offices know when scheduling. After a nurse administers the test, reactions may take 15-20 minutes to appear. Typical reactions are mild and will cause a small, itchy bump like a mosquito bite.
An allergist reviews the reactions and determines if additional testing is needed. In these cases, intradermal testing may need to be done on the forearm to provide more detailed results. During these tests, a small amount of the allergen is injected under the skin of the arm to see if it causes a reaction.
Another option is a blood test. This requires a simple blood draw that is sent off to the lab to determine if IgE levels suggest an allergy. A blood test can be used if a patient is already on antihistamines but is less accurate than skin test when diagnosing allergies.