What is allergy testing and should you opt for it?


How Do Allergic Reactions Happen?

The human immune system is a complex and highly efficient one. However, in some cases, the brain sends wrong signals to the immune system when the body comes in contact with a foreign object. Usually, the immune system produces antibodies to fight off infections and other foreign objects that either enter or come in contact with our bodies. These antibodies are known as Histamines and they can sometimes be too strong, and this is what leads to an allergic reaction.

The Different Types of Allergies

Allergies can be quite difficult for people who suffer from them. In many cases, such conditions as food allergies tend to reduce a person’s choices when it comes to eating certain types of food. These allergies are caused by substances known as allergens and there are a wide variety of such allergens like:

  • Inhaled Allergens
  • Ingested Allergens
  • Contact Allergens

How to Take an Allergy Test?

Allergy testing can be done easily by going to a general physician and discussing your lifestyle, eating and sleeping habits, family history of diseases and allergies, among other things. After this detailed discussion, your general physician will usually prescribe a comprehensive allergy test. However, it is important to remember that before taking an allergy test, you need to report to your general physician if you are taking any of the following medication regularly:

  • Antihistamines
  • Heartburn medication
  • Anti-IgE Monoclonal Antibody medication
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants

Since these medications can interfere with the results of allergy tests, your doctor may tell you to lay off of them for a certain duration of time before taking the allergy tests.

Different Types of Allergy Tests

Before you go for the prescribed allergy test, you need to know the 3 major types of allergy testing methods. These are mostly non-invasive or very minimally invasive tests that are completely painless.

Skin Tests

These tests are further subdivided into 3 types, that are, Scratch Test, Intradermal Tests, and Patch Tests. The Scratch Test is usually the first type of skin test that a general physician performs to check whether your skin is allergic to a particular type of allergen. In this test, your doctor will place a specific allergen in a liquid which is then applied to your skin. Your doctor will then make a small puncture in your skin and allow that allergen to enter the top-most layer of your skin. The results of this test will confirm whether you are allergic to that particular substance or not. Similarly, an Intradermal Test can also be performed where the allergen is directly injected into the epidermis of your skin. On the other hand, Patch Tests are rather new and innovative and it involves, placing a patch containing the allergen on your skin and monitoring your skin’s reaction to it from 48 to 96 hours.

Blood Tests

In cases where the primary physician is concerned that a skin test may cause severe allergic reactions, a blood test may be recommended. In a blood test, your doctor will draw some blood, usually from your middle arm, and send the samples for testing to a diagnostic lab. The results of these tests take about a week to be conclusive. At the lab, your blood is studied for the presence of antibodies and histamines that can be triggered by certain substances. The existence of a large number of these antibodies confirms that you have an allergy to a specific substance. However, this test is more invasive than a skin test.

Elimination Diet

This is the most non-invasive type of allergy test and revolves around investigation through elimination. Your doctor will prescribe that you eliminate certain types of food from your regular diet for a few days. After this, you will be asked to bring back certain types of food into your regular diet one by one, to see which of these ingredients are causing your specific type of food allergy. It is important to note that this method of testing, although highly non-invasive, is usually not done under the constant supervision of a doctor.

What are the Risks Involved?

While there are risks involved in such allergy tests as mild to severe itching and inflammation, most of these tests are performed under the supervision of an experienced doctor. Therefore, there is often little cause of concern when taking an allergy test. You can rest assured that allergy tests that may cause life-threatening reactions are always done in a clinical environment and the presence of medical equipment as well as experienced doctors. The other risk with allergy tests is linked to the results. You may get a false positive or a false negative on your allergy test result. This can happen when an allergen triggers the production of antibodies in your immune system but they do not show any significant adverse symptoms. Technically, an allergy is only a cause of concern when the autoimmune response triggers adverse symptoms. Therefore, a licensed physician or allergist is the only person knowledgeable enough to tell the difference and provide you with sound advice.

Conclusion: If you regularly experience allergic reactions or adverse symptoms that are similar to a regular allergic reaction, you need to first consult a general physician. It is often noticed that non-allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies are confused by most people for chronic allergies. To know the difference and take adequate measure, it is best to first take an allergy test.