Who Needs Allergy Tests

When medication doesn’t do enough to relieve your runny nose, frequent sneezing and itchy eyes and throat, you may need to seek the advice of an allergist, who can do some strategic testing to find out exactly what is making you sick. Such testing, which is generally safe for children and adults, consists of introducing you to a very small amount of a substance to determine whether your body will react to it.

Different Approaches for Different Folks

While what triggers your allergy symptoms can vary from person to person, so can the type of testing that your doctor will suggest to learn more about what causes them to kick in. Keep in mind that the basic premise of allergy testing is consistent regardless of the method used, though. There are just different approaches to gather the information, depending on your specific circumstances.

The three most commonly used allergy tests, which are approved for use by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, include:

  • Prick Tests
  • Intradermal Tests
  • Blood Tests

Prick Tests

Prick tests are performed by pricking your skin with a needle containing a small drop of a possible allergen. If your body reacts to this invasion, your skin will swell where the substance touched it. This is an easy and effective way to test for a variety of items at once. Your doctor will be able to “read” the results on your skin within about 15 minutes.

Intradermal Tests

If the prick test doesn’t provide enough information about your allergies, your doctor may suggest that you undergo intradermal testing. This is a more sensitive procedure that consists of using a syringe to inject the substances in question right under your skin.

Blood Tests

If you aren’t a good candidate for either of the skin testing procedures described above, the alternative may be to have an allergy blood test done. This consists of having your blood drawn in order to measure the antibodies produced when exposed to certain allergens. This type of test can be more expensive than the alternatives and can take longer to get the results back, but for people with certain skin conditions or for those who are at risk for potentially serious reactions from undergoing skin testing, this may be the safest and more effective approach.

What You Should Know

Regardless of the allergy testing method your doctor recommends, once you have the results and you know exactly what substances cause your body to react, your doctor will be able to work with you to help you most effectively manage your environment to avoid these allergens on a regular basis, and/or to use allergy medication strategically to head off a reaction.