Allergies do not just affect the physical well-being but also the mental health of the sufferer. To take back control of your life, it is imperative to get tested. I have talked at length about allergies. About allergy attacks, food sensitivity and intolerance, myths, and misconceptions. Now it is time to discuss how allergies are diagnosed and tested.
Why you need to get tested for allergies
People often avoid allergy tests due to a lack of awareness. Some consider it dangerous. Self-diagnosis can lead to unnecessary changes in your lifestyle. Sometimes what is considered an allergy could be a symptom of another disease. Getting tested ensures the correct and timely management of allergies.
Skin tests are one of the most popular kinds of tests to diagnose allergies. They can be broadly classified into three types – prick test, intradermal test, and patch test.
Skin Prick Test
A skin prick test (popularly known as a scratch test) checks for immediate allergic reactions. It can be used to check reactions to almost fifty allergens at once. It is generally carried out to identify pollen, mold, pet dander, dust mites, and food allergies. The test is usually done on the forearm. Children are often tested on the upper back.
Skin Injection Test
Sometimes a skin prick test may not be adequate and a skin injection test may be required. A small amount of allergen is injected into the skin. After 15 minutes, the skin is examined for any signs of an allergic reaction. This intradermal test is used to detect insect or penicillin allergy.
Each allergy is different and so is each allergic reaction. An allergic reaction may not be immediate and might take several days to develop. In the case of allergic skin inflammation (contact dermatitis), a patch test provides the best results. Allergens are applied to patches, which are then placed on the skin. It is particularly useful in detecting an allergy to latex, medications, fragrances, preservatives, hair dyes, metals and resins.
In addition to skin testing, some patients may require blood tests called specific IgE tests (also commonly known as RAST) to complete their allergy evaluation. Specific IgE tests are also done in cases where allergy skin testing is not appropriate. Blood RAST testing is often considered safer for those who are highly allergic.
Elimination diets are used to identify food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies. Food items suspected of causing allergy are removed from the diet for a period of time and then reintroduced gradually.
Elimination diets are not for everyone. They should only be carried out under medical supervision. Reintroducing a food allergen may trigger a dangerous anaphylaxis reaction.
Which allergy test is the best?
There is no clear answer to the question. It depends on the type of allergy. Skin test gives fast results but some medications can interfere with the results. Blood tests are less painful but can have false positives. The test results alone do not diagnose allergies. They need to interpreted together with the medical history by an allergist or an immunologist.
The risks of allergy testing
Like any other medical test, allergy testing also has risks involved. They may cause mild itching, redness, and swelling of the skin. On rare occasions, they produce an immediate, severe allergic reaction that requires medical attention.
If you have symptoms of allergy, over-the-counter drugs may provide temporary relief. But for long term management of allergies, it is time to see your doctor. Follow the allergy awareness series for more discussions around allergies. Let us start a much-needed conversation around them.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner. The purpose of this series is to bring about awareness. Please consult an allergist/immunologist for queries and overall management of allergies.
As a part of Blogchatter’s Blogging with a Purpose campaign, I am using my voice to highlight something I care about.