Allergy Testing: How They Do It

.Allergy Tests

According to the Americam College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology:

  • More than 50 Million people in the US have allergies
  • Adults and children of any age can be tested
  • Testing options include Skin tests, or Blood tests
  • 2 types of skin tests:
    • Drop of suspected allergen is scratched on the skin surface, usually on the back or forearm; can test many possible allergens at same time
    • Tiny amount of suspected allergen is injected just under the skin (“intra-dermal”); intra-dermal allergy testing is restricted to testing for allergy to insect stings or penicillins
    • For skin tests (both types), positive reactions usually appear within 20 minutes
    • Both types of skin test have little or no pain; positive reactions can cause annoying itching red bumps, like a mosquito bite
    • Note that some medications interfere with allergy testing – especially allergy meds like antihistamines
    • Both kinds of allergy skin tests are thought to be mediated by a type of antibody (IgE) that we make against the allergen
    • Allergy Blood Tests detect the presence of IgE that is made against an allergen.
      The Allergy Blood Tests can be used when:

      • Patient is taking a medication that can interfere with skin testing, but the medication cannot be stopped for a few days
      • The patient suffers from severe skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis that would either be exacerbated by the testing, or interferes with interpretation of the results
      • Testing with a strong allergen might cause an extra large positive reaction
      • For babies and young children, a single needle stick to draw a small amount of blood to be used for allergy blood testing may be better tolerated than several skin tests
      • Allergy blood tests can take many days to get results
      • Allergy blood tests are generally less sensitive than skin testing methods

Which Test is Better?

Each test type has pluses and minuses.  Using either type of test, the results alone do not diagnose allergies.  Like all test results, they must be interpreted with the medical history.

The Benefits of Testing:

Some people with severe allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, otitis, or asthma (think Unified Airway Disorders), that is not controlled with standard therapy may benefit from allergy testing, if test results enable allergen avoidance or help guide allergy treatment using immunotherapy – either sub-cutaneous or sub-lingual immunotherapy (SCIT or SLIT).

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For More Information on Allergy Testing:

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Image Credit:

Wolfgang Ihloff: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Wolfgang_Ihloff

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Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.

Russell Faust, PhD, MD boogordoctor

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Comments

  1. Hi Doctor, Im not sure if this thread is still active, but I’m so happy I came across your site. A mother who blogged about her son’s journey with variant asthma highly recommends your tools and advice. I had a few questions because my daughter was diagnosed with asthma, and with all due respect I just dont buy it. She coughs from time to time. She doesnt have nasal drip, or cold symptoms, no frquent night time coughs, no history of colds or coughs (she’s 9). I bought the nettipot just need to get the packets, and am considering Manuka Honey (is that a probiotic?). I just dont want my daughter on inhalers and nasonex..any help will be apprecited. Thanxx! God Bless.

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Jehan,
      I try to keep up with the comment ‘threads’, but I sometimes fall behind.
      I have used the Neti pot for my own sinusitis troubles, but I have used the squeeze-bottle from Nasopure.com exclusively for at least a year now. It allows me to simply keep my head upright while doing the nasal saline rinses. Be sure to check out their website for some GREAT videos and other resources. I also highly recommend Dr. Hana’s book, “Clearing the Air One Nose at a Time”.
      Manuka honey contains agents that act as very strong natural antibiotics. It has been demonstrated now by good scientific studies that Manuka helps kill some pretty ‘bad bugs’, including Staph. aureus and Pseudomonas – common causes of chronic sinusitis.
      You can find Manuka honey for a pretty good price through the Amazon Store link on the right column of this blog (yes, I am an affiliate, in an attempt to help pay for some of the costs of running this site), or from local health-food stores. You can find several articles on this blog about using honey, but you can simply add it to about 20% in your Neti pot or Nasopure bottle, along with the saline, to help eliminate chronic sinusitis. There is no downside to adding it, and the up-side is that the sweetness helps get children to do the rinses :))
      Thank you for for visiting, and please leave another comment some time to let us know how you are doing.
      RF (boogs)

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