You Think You’ve Got An Allergy–What Do You Do Now?
There are a number of different tests which can help doctors determine what allergy you have, how severe it is, and how to treat it. Primary allergy tests are:
- Skin Tests
- Blood Tests
- Challenge Tests
Which test you should take is usually be determined by a practicing medical professional who asks a number of questions about your condition, and consults available medical history. Even the most professional doctors can come across unique allergy situations. You should be advised that, even though some of these tests may be something you could approach yourself, it’s often best to leave testing to the professionals.
Skin tests have four basic categories: the skin prick test, the intradermal test, the scratch/scrape test, and the external application test.
Skin Prick Test
With the skin prick test, your doctor will put a bit of water which contains suspected allergens like cat dander or pollen at strategic points on your skin. You’ll then be pricked so said allergens are able to enter. If you’ve got a food allergy, the prick–which is technically called a lancet–will be dipped in the food before you’re “stuck” with it. Your skin will usually turn red, or a little bump may appear, if you’re allergic to the substance.
The intradermal test is similar, but a suspected allergen will be injected, rather than pricked, into the skin. The allergen is in a liquid solution of some variety. These are used for detection of allergic reactions which aren’t as strong. Intradermal tests are kind of a second resort if prick tests are inconclusive.
Scratch tests are also used if a general prick test isn’t clear. A tiny portion of skin is excised, after which the allergen is rubbed over that area. Deeper tissue layers can be reached this way than through other tests, facilitating stronger, more visible reactions. Scrape tests do the same, but don’t penetrate so deeply.
For allergens that take longer to manifest–as in half a day to three days–a patch will be applied to your back and left for a day to see if you have a reaction of any kind.
External applications for a suspected allergic reaction can be simply rubbed on the skin without any need to break it. Now this may take longer, but it’s not likely to be as unpleasant, and if you have a strong allergy, could be the best way to go.
What if you’re allergic to the metal in the needles used in a skin prick test? Well, then you’ll have a reaction to everything! How does a doctor get around that? The solution is a blood test which measures antibodies in the blood after allergens are exposed to it. This isn’t totally conclusive, but it can indicate allergic tendencies. Skin tests are more conclusive because other conditions can result in increased antibodies.
As the name implies, these are a challenge. Sometimes skin tests aren’t conclusive, so a bit of the allergen in a requisite quantity to cause reaction is put either in the eyes, in the nose, or in the lungs. The doctor can then determine the severity of reaction. These are only done under supervision, as reactions can be intense.
Getting Yourself Professionally Tested
As you can see, some of these tests can be done outside a medical facility; but the results, and the severity of those results, is unpredictable. Your best bet if you or a loved one has an allergy is to get tested in a professional capacity.