Allergies are a very common problem. One in five Americans have symptoms of allergies or asthma, and over half of people tested for allergies test positive for one or more allergies. Despite the commonness of allergies, it can be difficult to understand your allergy diagnosis.
Medical History and Symptoms
Your allergy diagnosis will begin with your doctor taking a medical history and asking you about your symptoms. They will also perform a physical exam to check for any common allergy symptoms.
If your allergy symptoms involve a runny or stuffy nose and itchy eyes, you are most likely suffering from allergic rhinitis. These can include pets, pollen, dust, and mold. Your doctor may choose to treat you with medication and forego further testing. Your doctor may be able to tell you what you are most likely to be allergic to based on your symptoms and when they occur.
Drug and Insect Allergies
Drug allergies and allergies to insect stings can cause itching, swelling, hives, and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that can cause nausea, a severe drop in blood pressure, severe breathing difficulty, unconsciousness, and death. These allergies are easily identified because you will develop symptoms after being exposed to your allergen. If you are diagnosed with one of these allergens, you will need to take great care to avoid them.
Allergy testing is needed when a medical history and exam isn’t enough to make a diagnosis. They can be performed to diagnose any type of allergy.
Skin Prick Test
A skin prick test is an accurate way to diagnose most allergies, including those caused by environmental allergens, food, and contact allergies. The doctor will place a small amount of the allergen on your skin and prick or scratch it. If you are allergic to the substance, you will develop swelling, redness, and itching at the site within fifteen minutes. A positive test result means that you are likely allergic to the substance.
Blood tests can be useful when you are taking medications to manage your allergy symptoms or you have very sensitive skin. The doctor will draw your blood. Then the lab will expose your blood to your suspected allergens. They then measure the amount of antibodies your body produces in response to the allergen.
The patch test is generally used when your doctor suspects that you have contact dermatitis. The doctor will place the allergen on your skin and apply a bandage. After 24-48 hours, the doctor will remove the bandage and check for any reaction. Redness and itching at the site means that you are allergic to the substance. The patch test can also be used with trays. The tray has small compartments that contain different allergens. This is an effective way to test for multiple skin allergies at once.