6 Ways Of Testing For Allergies. Are you one of the many whose dietary restrictions prevent them from enjoying the food they used to love? Have you ever paid for an exorbitantly-priced anti-aging cream, only to suffer swelling and unsightly rashes hours later?
Redness, discomfort, sneezing, and uncontrollable itchiness—these are only a few of the physical manifestations of an allergic reaction. Depending on the trigger or the type of allergen involved, an allergic reaction can impact your nasal passages, skin, and digestive tract. In some instances, people get respiratory or skin asthma. In more serious cases, allergies may trigger a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.
If you don’t want to live in discomfort for the rest of your life, it’s important to determine what triggers an allergic reaction in your body. The tests carried out by medical professionals will help you pinpoint the things to avoid.
- Allergy Skin Testing
This is the most common method of allergy testing because it can cover a wide range of suspected allergens. Substances from food, stinging insects, specific medications, as well as environmental allergies can be placed in the device. The results come out after a few minutes.
There are two types of skin testing for allergies:
- Prick skin testing: In this procedure, small drops of suspected allergens are placed on your skin. Then, your physician will perform a quick needle prick underneath each drop. A slightly elevated, red, and itchy part on the prick site may indicate that it’s time to avoid the specific allergen concerned.
- Intradermal skin testing: This test is typically done when your prick skin testing failed to reveal any useful information about your allergy. In this test, a doctor will place suspected allergens under your skin surface using a needle. When you’re allergic to a substance, substantial swelling and redness will occur. Such type of test is often recommended to determine environmental and medication triggers.
- Elimination Diet
Food allergy is one of the most common types of allergy. It occurs when an allergen found in food is ingested by a sufferer. This triggers an allergic reaction that may include digestive problems, hives, and swollen airways. In severe cases, it may cause life-threatening anaphylaxis.
To effectively identify specific allergy-causing foods, a person may be asked to go through a doctor-supervised elimination diet. This ‘test’ makes sense as it involves withdrawing certain types of food from your diet and later consuming them again. Small portions of food are served to the patient. For each serving, the patient is expected to observe and note down the reaction towards these particular foods to pinpoint potential food allergy triggers. Another serving of food is then introduced, where the patient and the physician note down additional observations.
With today’s fast-paced environment, most people may prefer to use a food allergy kit. Healthcare professionals, however, don’t endorse this diagnostic tool, being that allergic testing, as with other diagnostic tests, should involve medical professionals.
- Patch Testing
When skin testing and other types prove inconclusive, the physician may recommend this type of procedure, which has proven beneficial in identifying delayed allergic reactions.
Patch testing is also suggested in dermatitis patients, to determine whether contact allergy triggers or exacerbates the said skin condition. Contact dermatitis occurs when a patient develops a rash after using certain types of skincare products or accessories.
- Blood Testing
To complement skin testing, some patients may be required to undergo an allergy blood test or immunoassay test. In some cases, blood tests are performed when a skin test isn’t possible in a patient, such as when the patient has a skin condition or a severe allergic reaction.
Blood tests may also be required in these specific cases:
- An allergy sufferer can’t skip taking antihistamines, steroids, or other drugs that would interfere with the results of the skin test
- A patient has dermatographism, a condition where even light skin scratches may cause hives
- A patient has an unstable heart condition or is suffering from asthma
- A sufferer has severe eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis
- A patient has a history of anaphylaxis
- A patient has skin rashes and lesions that may cause an inaccurate reading of the skin test results
- Your physician wants to know the efficacy of your allergy treatments
An allergy takes place when the immune system overreacts to an allergen by producing antibodies referred to as Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
Allergy blood tests measure antibodies to certain allergens in the blood. These can be done in two ways:
- Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
- Radioallergosorbent test (RAST)
These two types of tests detect and measure the presence of allergen-specific antibodies in your blood in order to identify your allergy triggers.
These blood tests are also used to determine other immune system problems.
Also called lung function tests, spirometry is used in evaluating and validating asthma, another form of allergic reaction.
Asthma causes the airways to narrow, and is typically set off by allergens, such as mold spores, and dander. An indoor air purifier may help in most cases.
A special tool called spirometer is used to measure the amount of air you can breathe out, along with how fast the air blows. In children, a device called peak flow meter may be used instead. To diagnose allergic asthma, a patient is asked to inhale deeply and then exhale forcefully while blowing into the pulmonary function monitor. This procedure will be repeated at least three times to ensure an accurate finding.
- Drug Or Medication Challenge
Similar to the elimination diet, a medication challenge describes a medical procedure where a potentially allergy-causing medication is given in small doses to a patient. These doses will be gradually increased, and the person’s reaction will be observed throughout. The test will be discontinued if the patient will develop an allergic reaction at any point. Depending on the results, an allergen may either be ruled out or confirmed.
Oral challenge tests are typically done in patients where skin, blood, or patch tests don’t produce conclusive results, yet an allergy isn’t ruled out.
The risk of developing anaphylaxis is high; thus, close medical supervision is necessary in this type of test.
Knowing your allergy triggers is the first step in living life better amid certain limitations. If you’re not sure what causes your allergic reactions, it’s time to get tested and go through specific treatments to reduce your sensitivity.