During your long-awaited camping vacation, you got stung by a bee and began swelling abnormally even though this has never happened before. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your kid keeps coughing and wheezing after relocating to your new home, and your chief suspect behind the bizarre reaction is dust. Allergies manifest themselves in various ways, and they can cause symptoms ranging from life-threatening to mild. If you’ve discovered or you are suspecting that you have an allergic reaction, you might want to make it clearer and know what’s causing it. This way, you will know how to manage future allergic reactions and even learn how to prevent the allergens.
Here’s where allergy testing comes in. In this piece, we will discuss some of the most effective and accurate allergy tests that will help you answer your questions for once and for all.
Skin prick test
Shortly referred to as SPT, is one of the most common allergy tests performed. Skin tests are thought to be the most accurate and inexpensive methods to confirm allergens. Skin prick testing is mainly conducted at your doctor’s office, and you can get your results in as little as 20 minutes.
During testing, your doctor will use a comb-like instrument and gently prick the skin on your arm or back. A few suspected allergens (preferably 3 to 4) will be placed on the pricked skin surface. Your doctor will observe your reactions to the allergens. If you begin swelling, itching, or developing some redness as some sort of allergic response within 15 minutes, your doctor will confirm your allergy suspicions. If you record no reactions, it’s highly unlikely that you are allergic to the tested allergen.
What do skin prick test results mean?
SPT is preferred for its reliability, simplicity, safety, and mostly because it can be used on all age groups, including babies. Skin prick test results may mean:
- Positive results do not out-rightly diagnose allergies.
- Positive results do not describe the severity of allergic reactions to certain allergens.
- Negative results don’t always mean that you aren’t allergic. In cases where you may have taken some medications such as antihistamines before the test, they could block the effect of the allergens, thus negative results.
Blood tests are yet another way commonly used to measure the presence of an allergy. Under blood testing, doctors typically prefer Radioallergosorbent testing (RAST). Other newer blood tests are gradually gaining popularity, including the ImmunoCAP testing, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and the ELISA test. RAST testing is believed to be the best alternative to skin prick testing that we discussed earlier. The former is a blood test that is used to determine if a patient’s blood holds antibodies for particular allergens such as pollen or peanuts. Scientifically, these antibodies are known as IgE or immunoglobulin E antibodies.
What does all this mean? Should your blood test positive for IgE antibodies that are particular to a specific allergen, then you are allergic to the substance. In reaction to the allergens, these antibodies may cause sneezing, wheezing, seizures, rashes, and itching, among other symptoms.
Why are RAST tests preferred?
The RAST test is quite straightforward. Your doctor will take a blood sample and send it to the lab for testing. According to statistics, blood tests are accurate as the results of tests should show present antibodies for a particular allergen. Although skin tests are believed to be relatively more reliable compared to blood tests, doctors may recommend RAST when:
- Testing infants to minimize the number of skin pricks. Blood testing requires only one needle prick.
- The doctor wants to reduce the chances of triggering an existing skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis.
- Avoiding the risk of a severe allergic reaction as with the trial and error skin prick tests.
Food challenge and elimination testing
In a few cases, your doctor may put you through the food challenge and elimination test. Here, you will be handled food that you suspect to be causing allergies. Your doctor will carefully increase the amounts of food to see how you react while closely monitoring your progress. Your doctor will eliminate food that doesn’t seem to cause reactions. Although this test is riskier compared to the above-discussed allergy tests, it is the most accurate method used in diagnosing food allergies. The food challenge test is best carried out in a clinic where a doctor can attend to severe reactions if they develop.
There you have it! Some of the most accurate allergy tests and everything you need to know about them. Do you suspect that you have some form of allergy? Erase your doubts by reaching us through our contact information to book an appointment with us today at 205-352-9141.