A doctor carries out skin testing for allergies by placing a drop of the potential allergen on the patient’s skin

Have you broken out in an itchy rash after enjoying your family dinner or taking your medication? Chances are, you have an allergy. Medically, there are hundreds of potential substances that may cause allergic symptoms. Although animal dander, pollen, and particular foods are the most common, they are not always the case. You may need to test for allergies to find out what substance is the culprit of your unsightly hives. And the first thing to do is to get a physical.

What is allergy testing and what steps does it include?

In layman’s terms, allergy testing is an examination that helps determine the substances that your body overreacts to. It starts with a doctor scrutinizing your medical records, followed by a focused physical. Based on your family history, lifestyle habits, and exam findings, a physician will select the allergens that most likely cause your symptoms.

So, how does allergy testing work? Once the allergens are selected, you will be exposed to them one by one. A doctor will observe your body’s response to each substance to check for bouts of hypersensitivity. Usually, allergic reactions are not long in coming and manifest themselves as hives, sneezing, or chest tightness.

5 Types of allergy tests you must be aware of

Tubes that are used to collect blood to test for allergies

Allergies vary, and so do the tests that are carried out to diagnose them. Depending on your particular case, your doctor may want you to go for:

  • Skin tests. Known for their accuracy, these tests use a tiny bit of an allergen directly on the skin (usually forearm) to check for redness, welts, and other unwanted reactions. A selected substance is applied either with a prick device or as an intradermal injection.
  • Blood tests. They are an alternative option for patients who are not good candidates for skin tests. First, a doctor will collect your blood sample. It will then be mixed with an allergen in a lab environment to estimate the antibody concentration.
  • Oral food challenges. During these tests, you will eat small amounts of food that your body may be hypersensitive to. Because allergic reactions can be dangerous, oral food challenges are always carried out under the physician’s guide.
  • Drug challenge. It refers to testing for allergies to medications (penicillin, anesthetics, etc.). Like foods, drugs are given in low doses, while an allergist watches for potential allergic reactions.
  • Pulmonary function tests. If you have a seasonal allergy or asthma, your doctor may need to perform PFTs. These tests are used to measure how well your lungs work using the spirometer device.

It’s your doctor who can advise you on where to get an allergy test. He or she will also check whether you have any contraindications for specific testing methods. That is why you want to schedule an appointment first.

6 Thoughts on “What tests can diagnose an allergy?”

  • Wow, it never would have occurred to me that are hundreds of substances that can cause allergic symptoms. At what age would it be best to start testing your children for allergies? It seems like you would want to start early so that your kids don’t get exposed to things that can cause allergic symptoms.

  • Thank you for letting me know what to expect when I go in for an allergy skin test. I didn’t know that the actual allergen is put directly on skin that may cause welts or redness. The skin prick doesn’t sound too bad. I have been allergic to some food that I can’t put my finger on. Rather than going through all of the eliminations and sacrifices, I think it might be easier to just go find out what it is and get right to the root of the problem. Making an appointment for allergy testing is on my to-do list this week.

  • It really helped when you said allergies vary in severity, as do the tests used to identify them. I have a cousin who is doing a research paper this should help him, I’ll share it with him. Thank you for the information about allergy testing.

  • It is important that we ensure the allergy testing that we are doing is legitimate. One of the best ways to do so is to ensure the doctor we are working with is licensed and certified. If I need allergy testing done, I will definitely look at hiring a reputable doctor to help me.

  • I wan to make sure that I the right allergy testing done. That seems like a good way to see if there’s anything that I should avoid. I’ll be sure to work with a professional to ensure that I get the tests done properly.

  • Thank you for explaining these five different tests. I had only heard of skin tests before now. I’ll be sure to talk to my doctor to see which test would be best to test my daughter’s allergies.

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