What’s Involved in Allergy Testing?

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Ever wonder what’s exactly involved in allergy testing?  Don’t worry - it’s nothing to fret about. Getting testing for allergies is easy.  It measures exactly what reaction a person has to a specific set of allergens such as pollen, dander, mold, different types of medication, or foods such as peanuts. 

Mainly, there are two types of allergy tests that are known to actually work flawlessly.  You can have skin testing, in which you prick your skin, or RAST, which is also known as radioallergosorbent testing, where they check your blood. 

Tests are conducted in a doctor’s office or lab.  If you are being tested by someone who just calls themselves an “allergist,” they may lack the training and certification needed to do this formally - so beware!

Skin testing is the most popular type of allergy testing.  It’s been in use for over 100 years and it continues to be the test of choice.  When you start the test, you’re going to be cut either through a prick, scratch, or puncture method.  

After you get cut, a small drop of chemical containing the allergen is put on top of the cut.  Contrary to what you may think, this doesn’t hurt at all - the cut is way too microscopic to cause any pain.  The needle barely scratches the surface of the skin, so it’s uncommon that you have any bleeding.

After the allergen is placed, the skin needs about 10-15 minutes to react to it.  A “positive” skin test can be detected when you see an itchy red or pink bump form (it looks like a bug bite).

If you get a positive allergy test, it means that you have an allergic antibody to the object that was tested. It means you’re most likely going to experience allergy symptoms around that specific element. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allergic.  After you see the bump, the test will be compared to two other tests with the same allergen as the first, plus a negative control (such as saltwater) and a positive control (histamine).  You then wait to see what your reactions to the two are - these two additional tests are to make sure that you aren’t just reacting to the pricking of a needle.

If the skin test results are found to be negative, even though your history of allergic reactions tells you that you should be allergic, you will receive another test.  This test is called intradermal skin testing. 

This entails the injection of a much diluted allergen under the very top layer of the skin.  They do this by using a small needle, which again, doesn’t hurt in the least bit, so you needn’t worry.

Both skin tests represent allergic reactions on a small scale – it’s helpful in preparing people for the reactions.  It gives you an idea of the look and feel of their allergic reaction so they know how to identify whether they’re having an allergic reaction or if it’s merely a bug bite of some sort.  This also lets you know exactly what to stay away from (peanuts, cats, dogs, pollen, etc). 

Knowing what is exactly involved in allergy testing will help you better prepare for (and be less scared of) what’s ahead.  Many people avoid testing because of their anxiety but the relief they’ll feel from allergy symptoms once they’re informed will make up for that.

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