Allergy Testing: What Is It?

Allergy tests performed on the skin are positive when a reaction occurs in the area where the substance has been applied. This means the person has an allergy to that substance.
Allergy Testing: What Is It?

Last update: 12 May, 2022

Allergy testing is performed to find out if a person is allergic to something and to detect which specific substances they’re allergic to. The idea is that the person knows the substances that cause this reaction so they can avoid them and improve their quality of life.

Allergies are an increasingly common health problem in our environment. In fact, specialists estimate that they affect around 40-50% of the population. Although many people always associate allergies with respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing, this isn’t the case.

A person can be allergic to almost anything. This is a situation where our immune system overreacts to a substance as if it were a danger, when in fact it isn’t.

The most common allergies are to pollen or dust mites and are those related to typical symptoms, such as rhinitis. However, there are many types of allergies. However, you can also be allergic to a food, such as nuts, a medicine, a plant, etc.

Because of all this, allergy testing has become a mainstay of medical consultations, especially in pediatrics. Therefore, in this article, we’ll explain what these tests are and what they consist of.

Allergy testing: Skin tests

testing on skin

Specialists usually perform allergy tests based on the patient’s medical history.

Skin tests consist of applying small samples of substances that usually cause allergy to the skin, called allergens. Specialists then observe these areas for signs of an allergic reaction.

This is why telling our doctor everything is so important. We can guide the professional to try a specific substance or related substances. For example, if you think you’re allergic to some kind of metal, such as nickel, which is usually present in the buttons of clothes, the doctor will try it or similar metals to see if there’s a skin reaction.

For allergy tests through skin testing, it’s also important to inform the doctor if you’re taking any medications. These tests are usually performed in the nurse’s office or the doctor’s office.

First, the professional places a drop containing the suspected allergen on the skin. Then, they slightly prick the skin, so that this substance is introduced into it. You must then wait for about 20-40 minutes.

After this time, the patient’s skin is observed to see what has happened. The result is considered positive when there’s an elevation of the skin, redness, and/or itching in the area. In that case, the patient would be allergic to that substance.

Many studies claim that these allergy tests, also called prick tests, are very effective. In fact, these studies state that the predictive value of these tests is around 95%.

Other allergy testing methods

Although specialists usually use skin tests, they can also use other allergy tests that have different advantages and disadvantages. For example, specialists can determine allergies through blood tests.

Blood test

blood test

Specialists can also diagnose allergies via blood tests. This is because, in blood, doctors can look for antibodies that appear specifically in allergy. However, blood antibody tests are often non-specific and don’t tell you what substance you are allergic to, but only the condition of your allergy.

Notwithstanding, it’s a test that needs more time and is less sensitive than skin tests. Also, it’s indeed a less “risky” option.

Normally, skin tests don’t involve any complications, and the risks are very low. However, certain patients have a very strong allergy because they are very sensitive and issues may arise with the test.

For example, this is the case for those who have a difficult allergy episode when they go get allergy tests. A patient with asthma, acute urticaria, or very severe allergic rhinitis should ideally avoid skin testing.

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In conclusion

Allergy tests are very useful nowadays since the incidence of this pathology only increases every year. Moreover, they hardly carry any risk and allow specialists to determine an adequate diagnosis most of the time.

So now you know, if you think you’re allergic to something, visit your doctor to find out more!