Allergic reactions can greatly impact your quality of life, which is why it is important to take the required measures to evade them. For this purpose, the first step is to find out what it is that you are allergic to so that a proper treatment plan can be formed which would enable you to lead a healthy life.
Types of Allergy Testing
There are various tests that can be conducted to find out the stimulant of your allergies. We are going to shed some light on some of these tests so that you can acquire information as to what your next course of action should be.
1. Skin Test
This is one of the most popular routes taken when the cause of an allergy needs to be found. There are three main types of skin tests, which are detailed below:
Skin Prick Test
During this test, a drop of solution which contains the allergen that needs to be tested is used on the skin. Via a series of needle pricks or scratches, the solution is provided with a way to acquire entrance into the body.
If a red, raised, and itchy region develops on the skin, which is referred to as a wheal, the result is said to be positive and the conclusion is made that the person is allergic to that specific allergen.
This is another skin test which can be used to detect the allergen responsible for an allergic reaction. This test is usually conducted when the skin prick test is negative, but there is a still strong suspicion of the allergen being responsible for the allergic reaction in the person.
The intradermal test is found to be more sensitive as compared to a skin prick test, but it also has quite a few incidences of false positive results, where positive reactions have been found even in those who do not have any symptoms.
Skin Patch Test
This is a somewhat extensive test. For this, you will be provided with adhesive patches that are loaded with the allergens you are suspected of being allergic to and you will need to apply them on the skin. These patches need to remain on the body even after you get home for a period of around 48 hours.
The patches are renewed after this duration, and the renewal is done again after 72 hours and 96 hours of application.
The skin is then tested for the presence of any allergic reaction.
2. Blood Test
Many people do not like the idea of opting for skin tests, in which case a blood test is an option. An allergy blood test aims to detect the antibodies in the blood. However, one thing to keep in mind is that these are not as sensitive as the skin tests.
If you are looking for an alternative to skin tests for any reason, this is what you can try. Various tests are available for the purpose, the most common of which is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test usually referred to as ELISA.
ELISA revolves around measuring the blood level of a type of antibody, immunoglobulin E, which the body makes when exposed to certain allergens. The levels are found to be higher in people who have asthma or allergies.
Other methods are available as well which can be used if more information is to be acquired. These include the likes of immunoassay capture test and radioallergosorbent test (RAST) among others. These tests can also prove to be useful in revealing which allergy treatment would be suitable for you.
3. Physician-Supervised Challenge Test
Also known as the provocation test, this needs to be conducted in the presence of a physician, lest things get out of hand. It is usually done for food allergies. However, one thing to keep in mind is that this test is quite time-consuming. It is also rather expensive owing to which people usually refrain from getting it.
During the course of this test, the patients need to be in a controlled medical setting to make sure that in case of a severe reaction, prompt intervention can be sought. The patient is given small amounts of food to decipher which food item will lead to an allergic reaction.
The test is often blind where the patient does not know what they are being given. It can also be double blind, which implies that the clinician is unaware of the food item being given as well. These tests aim to provoke a response.
The test can also be done to find out allergies related to inhaled particles where the patient is exposed to inhaled substances via the lungs, eyes and nose and checked for a reaction.
What Is the Best Allergy Testing Method?
On the whole, it is seen that skin tests prove to be a better option. While the challenge test seldom yields false positive results, it is quite dangerous and if done in the absence of a physician, it can be detrimental to the life of the patient.
Skin tests are found to be relatively safer as the amount of allergen used is not enough to incur heavy reactions. Blood tests are not as sensitive and are quite costly as well.
Keeping all factors in mind, it is the skin tests which you will find to be the most reliable.
How Accurate Is Allergy Testing?
In the end, it all comes down to the accuracy of the test. If you go for skin tests, barring the patch test, you will know the results before you leave the doctor’s office. A patch test would require several visits on the other hand.
A positive skin test reveals that you might be allergic to that substance. If a bigger wheal develops, it is an indicator of high sensitivity. On the other hand, a negative test implies that there is a high chance you are not allergic to that allergen.
However, these tests are not always accurate. False positives as well as false negatives can be acquired. There is also a possibility that you react differently to the same test which is performed on different occasions.
Similarly, there is also a possibility that you react positively to a stimulus during the test but not when exposed to it in your everyday life.
It is always a good idea to be well prepared about what lies in store for you so that you are not taken by a surprise. Thus, if you are about to get allergy testing done, you need to know what kind of experience awaits you.
How Long Does Allergy Testing Take?
If you are going to have a skin test, it usually takes around an hour. The pricking and the actual process of the test do not take more than 10 to 15 minutes, but you will have to wait for more than 15 minutes for a reaction to develop.
In the case of patch tests, more time would be required and you will need to make multiple visits to the doctor.
Blood tests do not take long, but you might have to wait for days or a week for the results, depending on the laboratory that you deal with.
The challenge test is the most time-consuming of all and can take hours.
Allergy Testing Cost
The cost varies depending on the place from where you get it done. On average, a skin allergy test can cost you anywhere between $60 and $300. Blood tests tend to be more expensive with the range lying somewhere between $200 and $1000.
A test for chronic hives can go up to thousands of dollars, while testing for food allergies can amount to hundreds of dollars.
Does Insurance Cover Allergy Testing?
This depends on your plan as there are many health insurance plans that do not cover allergy testing.
Allergy Testing Side Effects
To make sure you are aware of what you need to look out for, you need to know the side effects that can come your way when you get an allergy testing done, which is something that we are going to elaborate on now.
Do Allergy Tests Hurt?
Most allergy tests are relatively safe and would not hurt you. There are minor pricks that you will have to bear in addition to the discomfort caused by a reaction if the result is positive.
Reactions After Allergy Testing
If you get skin testing done, the most common side effect would be the development of wheals. In some cases, the wheals heal after a short duration, while in others, it can persist for a couple of days.
In rare cases, the tests can lead to an immediate allergic reaction, which is why it is advisable that the skin tests are also conducted in a setting where there are means to deal with an emergency.
When and When Not Do You Need Allergy Testing?
As explained before, the tests can be quite costly and, at times, dangerous. You would not want your money to be wasted, which is why it is important to understand when the tests should be taken and what are the situations where you can avoid them.
Those with allergy symptoms sometimes get relief with the use of over-the-counter medications and some home remedies. If that is the case, you do not need to burden yourself with the testing. However, if no relief is acquired via these medications and steps and the situation worsens, you need to consult a doctor.
The doctor would need information about your medical history, following which they would endeavor to ensure that you get the suitable tests done. If there is a history of allergy, the doctor might refer you to an immunologist who would then decide on the tests that need to be done.
Doctors usually tend to begin with skin tests. If there is a rash or you have taken a medicine which can hamper with the test results, you might require a blood test.
Chronic hives seldom require an allergy test, but in some cases, the doctor might order them. This is done to make sure the hives are not occurring due to other medical conditions, including the likes of thyroid disease or lymphoma.
Where Can You Get an Allergy Test?
It is important to select the right place for the test so that you would not have to doubt the reliability of the results.
It is always a better option to opt for a place that is near your home so that you would be able to visit it whenever required. Therefore, a testing lab or hospital near you is your best bet.
If you want to opt for quality places, some of the best allergy testing labs includes Walk-In Lab, Personalabs, HealthLabs, and TrueHealthLabs, which would ensure that you get reliable results whose accuracy need not be doubted.
A bit of research can make things easier for you.
How to Prepare Yourself for an Allergy Test
- There are many medications which can affect the result of the tests. Therefore, it is imperative you let your doctor know about all your medications. Some medicines might have to be stopped prior to the testing including antihistamines and antidepressants.
- It is also important that you communicate with your doctor and let them know about any concerns you have about the test. Endeavor to know all the details so that you would be well prepared to deal with what lies ahead.
- Usually, you will be asked to refrain from taking antihistamines a week before the test. The allergist would guide you as to when the drugs should be stopped. However, asthma medicines and nasal steroid sprays need not be stopped.
- If you are not getting test for food allergies, you do not need to fast prior to the test. However, for food allergies, it is advisable to refrain from eating anything since this can affect the results and might render them inconclusive.