Allergies are an overreaction of our immune systems to substances that generally don’t affect other individuals in the same way. These substances, or allergens, can cause runny or stuffy noses, sneezing, coughing, itching and more, and reactions can range from bothersome to life-threatening. According to the CDC, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies every year, and it is the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the US. When is it a good idea for you to get allergy testing, and how is it done?
How does Allergy Testing Work?
Allergy tests can be helpful in determining which things you touch, eat or inhale may be causing an allergic response in your body. The following allergy tests are typically performed:
- Skin Prick/Scratch Test – A skin prick or scratch test checks for an immediate allergic reaction to as many as 40 different allergens at one time. Each drop of allergen extract applied to the skin is then scratched into the surface with a fresh lancet. 15 minutes later, the nurse will observe the skin for signs of an allergic reaction.
- Skin Injection Test – These allergy tests require injecting a small amount of an allergen extract just into the surface of the skin on your arm. This is typically recommended for penicillin or insect venom allergies, and reactions are observed after 15 minutes.
- Patch Test – Patch testing is done to determine allergic skin reactions or delayed allergic responses. Allergens are applied to patches, which are then worn on the skin of the arms or back for up to 48 hours, when they are removed. Irritated areas indicate allergic responses.
According to the Mayo Clinic, skin tests aren’t always accurate. Sometimes there is a false positive, indicating an allergy when there isn’t one, or it may not trigger a response to something you are, in fact, allergic to. Blood allergy testing is also available, and is typically used to diagnose acute or chronic allergic responses to specific substances.
When Should You Seek an Allergy Test?
There are a variety of “self-help” methods for managing allergic responses, including avoidance, (the only option for food allergies), environmental conditioning (like using air conditioners or air filters, removing carpeting or curtains, using hypoallergenic bedding, etc.), or using over the counter medications like anti-histamines, decongestants or nasal sprays. When these methods are not helping your symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor.
Why is Allergy Testing Important?
Allergies are not only uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, they also cause inflammation in the body, which over time, can lead to disease. Because any allergic reaction contributes to systemic inflammation, allergic responses should be avoided when at all possible, and allergy testing can provide specifics about how to prevent them.
Considering Allergy testing?
Allergy tests can be extremely helpful in determining triggers of an allergic response, but it’s important to have a doctor’s exam and assessment of your medical history first for a successful diagnosis. Atlanta Medical Clinic is proud to offer our patients the opportunity to discuss health issues and concerns like allergies during an informative annual visit. Call us today for your wellness exam and appointment!