Why get an allergy test?
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans have allergies. Having allergic symptoms such as congestion or skin irritation is annoying at best and sometimes even life-altering. Properly identifying allergies and making a treatment plan with a doctor aids in a healthy lifestyle. For example, determining food allergies can help people build a healthier diet and avoid harmful food. Medicine such as an EpiPen can be prescribed so that if a reaction does occur, it can be treated immediately.
Sometimes an allergy may present without any symptoms. If childhood allergies are not treated, they cause problems in the future. it is important to identify allergies early. Even infants can have allergies. Allergies can develop later in life. Sometimes allergies can be deathly severe.
An allergy specialist works with patients to determine specific allergies.
How are allergies diagnosed?
Most learn to recognize sensitivities over their lifetime and have a general idea of what they are allergic to. But an allergy specialist can identify specific allergies. There are two main types of allergy testing: skin test and blood test.
Skin tests are the most common type of allergy test. Skin test help diagnose allergies such as hay fever, food, penicillin and bee venom. There are several different types of skin tests. They include:
During an intradermal test, a doctor or a nurse injects an allergen into the skin. This process repeats for each allergen that is tested. It only takes about 20 minutes for results to appear. The skin may react, turning red and swelling. Bumps and itching may also occur, but this goes away after the test. If you are testing more than one allergy at a time, the doctor or nurse injects each allergen into a different area of the skin so that each reaction is distinguishable from the others.
This is not a shot. Instead, a drop of allergen is placed on the skin and the doctor or nurse scratches the outer layer of the skin to let the allergen in. Or sometimes the doctor or nurse takes a needle an allergen and pricks it just under the skin. This will not make you bleed. Similar to the intradermal test, reactions occur after about 20 minutes.
The doctor or nurse will place an allergen on a patch and place it on your skin like a sticker. Sometimes multiple patches are used, taking up a good portion of the back skin. This is the longest process of allergy diagnosing, as you wear the patch for 48 hours. This is so that results are accurately determined in case the reaction delays. Sometimes, the third visit after 72 hours happens to double-check for reaction delays.
Sometimes medications can interfere with skin testing. Or a client may have a pre-existing skin condition such as psoriasis or eczema in which the skin is already showing irritation. In this case, a blood test is recommended. Unlike the Intradermal skin test, the blood test only requires one shot. Most prefer this method of testing when the patient is a young child who has difficulty sitting still for long.
During a blood test, a doctor or a nurse takes a blood sample from a vein. Then professionals examine the blood and look for allergen-specific antibodies. Their presence indicates an allergy.
Blood tests look for dust, pet, grass, mold and food allergies.
Along with the actual test, an allergy doctor asks for medical history and information about daily living habits. This helps doctors narrow down possible allergens. Sometimes a doctor may ask patients to keep a record of symptoms and possible triggers. Doctors order allergy tests based on the patient’s medical symptoms and daily environments. If the test results are not lining up with the patient’s medical history, a doctor may order further tests.
Once the results come in, the doctor comes up with a treatment plan with the patient. Treatments include avoidance, over-the-counter medications, a specialized diet, immunotherapy or natural home remedies.
How to set up an allergy test
Many drug stores offer at-home allergy tests. However, these are not always reliable. It is best to seek an allergy specialist. Find an allergy doctor in Hudson Valley. Set up an appointment and they will help you determine the best test type. Be sure to keep up an allergy diary, documenting any symptoms, daily activities, and probable allergen contacts. Look over medical history to remember ill reactions to medications given. After the test, the allergy doctor works with you to come up with a treatment plan for a healthier future.