What is Allergy Testing and Why is it Used?
When your body's immune system overreacts to something in the environment, such as pollen or an insect bite, it's called an allergic reaction, which can be harmful or even deadly. Whenever the specific environmental cause to your allergic reaction is unknown, an allergy specialist can perform an exam known as an allergy test.
An allergy test will help to determine the specific pollen, mold, or other substance that you're allergic to so that you can begin to develop a treatment plan. Treatment plans may involve medications, emergency responses to if you come into contact with your specific allergen or learning how to completely avoid your allergy triggers.
How is Allergy Testing Performed?
There are three main different types of allergy testing that are commonly performed. Skin tests involve using allergens and bringing them into contact with your skin to see if you have an allergic reaction. Blood tests involve taking a sample of your blood and testing that sample in a laboratory.
The third type of allergy testing is called an elimination diet. An elimination diet is like the name implies. It involves eliminating certain foods from your diet, adding them back in one by one and observing your reactions to them. Your reactions to the reintroduced food will help your doctor determine which foods are an allergy trigger for you.
How does Skin Testing for Allergies Work?
Skin tests can be used to determine if you are allergic to multiple potential allergy triggers including foods, airborne, or contact related allergens. Skin testing can be performed in three different ways including a scratch test, intradermal test, and patch test.
Each test essentially involves placing samples of specific allergens in contact with your skin. If you are allergic to the substance, your skin will have an allergic reaction to the sample such as turning red, becoming itchy, or starting to swell.
How does Blood Testing for Allergies Work?
If your allergy specialist is concerned that you will have a severe reaction during the skin test, a blood test will usually be performed. Since the blood test involves taking a sample of your blood, then testing that sample in a laboratory, there is no risk to you of a severe allergic reaction.
Which Test Method is Best?
Your allergy specialist will determine which test should be performed. Skin tests will usually give faster results and will normally cost less than a blood test. However, if you are on medication, it can interfere with the results of the skin tests. Blood tests cost more and take a longer time to get results than a skin test, but can detect some allergens that a skin test won't detect.