A skin allergy test is an important diagnostic tool used to help determine which allergies or sensitivities some people may have. The tests themselves are conducted under the supervision of board-certified allergists who analyze a variety of key details throughout the testing process to ensure an accurate diagnosis and create an effective treatment plan.
With more than 50 million people in the United States alone, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, suffering from allergies, the skin test remains one of the most effective testing options to pinpoint allergy triggers in children and adults alike who suffer from allergies.
The tests themselves provide important clues about what trigger allergies in individual people so Houston ENT doctors are able to prescribe medications and other treatment options that will best address your specific allergies.
Skin tests are generally safe for people of all ages – even infants. However, your doctor may suggest considering alternatives if you have severe allergic reactions, take certain medications, or have psoriasis or eczema that affects large patches on your back or arms (as these are the typical sites for conducting skin tests for allergies.
Many people wonder why they should go through the skin testing process for allergies. The bottom line is that allergies rob people of the quality of life they may desire, and may keep them sidelined from activities they enjoy. Going through the testing process identifies the specific triggers that can cause you to have allergic reactions, so you can work with your physician to develop a treatment plan that helps you avoid exposure to your triggers as much as possible, and to treat allergic reactions when the triggers are unavoidable.
Preparing for a Skin Test for Allergies
Your allergist in Houston may have a few steps he’d like you to take in preparation for your skin allergy testing including to discontinue use of the following medications for a few days prior to the allergy testing procedure:
Certain asthma treatments
Some heartburn medications
Prescription and over-the-counter antihistamines
If those types of medications cannot be discontinued for a few days prior to the skin tests, your doctor may order blood tests instead.
Procedure for a Skin Allergy Test
There are three primary types of skin tests for allergies. Each one can be highly beneficial for helping to isolate specific allergens that trigger your reactions.
Skin prick test. The first skin allergy test procedure involves a skin prick in which various suspected allergens are applied to the skin’s surface. It is called an IgE skin test. The IgE skin test is usually conducted on the forearm or back and can be used to test many different allergens simultaneously. The test will reveal swelling and redness at the test location if you have one of these allergies.
Intradermal test. The second type of skin allergy test in Houston, and beyond, involves injecting small amounts of allergens into the skin of your arm or forearm. Several allergens can be tested simultaneously with this procedure as well.
Patch test. The third type of skin test may be ordered as well. These tests are often ordered for patients who experience contact dermatitis to help discover the primary triggers for this type of rash. Suspected allergens are placed on the back via patch. They are removed 48 hours later. The results are read two to five days after that. Sometimes, results will be read again at 10 days past patch removal.
Plan to spend at least an hour with your doctor for the skin test. The test itself only takes about ten minutes, but your doctor will want you to wait around for several minutes to see how your skin reacts. Add in a little time for preparation before the skin test and for your allergists to discuss your results afterward and you have about an hour for the total visit.
Alternatives to Skin Tests for Allergies
Sometimes, skin tests are not the best plan for patients. When this is the case, your doctor may recommend an alternative to skin tests for allergies like challenge tests or blood tests. This is often the case for people who have various skin conditions, a history of anaphylaxis, or who cannot discontinue certain medications that may interfere with test results.
Blood tests for allergies cost more and take longer to generate results. For this reason, doctors are more reluctant to order them than skin tests for allergies.
Challenge tests are more common with suspected food or medication allergies. It involves taking in small amounts of suspected allergens by mouth or by inhalation and must be supervised by a qualified medical expert.
Risks Associated with Skin Allergy Tests
The procedures themselves are very straightforward and carry few risks themselves – aside from the risk of allergic reactions that can, in the case of anaphylaxis, be life-threatening. Let your doctor know immediately if you experience the following symptoms as they may be indications of anaphylaxis:
Swelling of your lips, mouth, or face
For the most part, the biggest risk you will experience during the testing is the risk of swollen, red, or itchy bumps immediately after exposure. Some people will experience a delayed reaction, within 24 to 48 hours of the skin test. In these cases, it’s important to notify your physician of the delayed reaction so that can be considered when creating your treatment plan.
The threat of severe allergic reactions is why it is so important to have these tests performed by qualified allergists in a physician’s office where you have immediate access to emergency medical equipment, medications, and trained professionals to administer it if needed.
While some people worry about pain with the skin tests, most people only experience minimal discomfort from the tests themselves. Most of the pain comes in the form of irritated skin in the aftermath of the skin tests.
Understanding Your Skin Allergy Test Results
Another reason it is important to work with a qualified allergist for your skin test is to have the results of your skin test explained to you. When the test reveals a positive reaction, it is telling allergists that you have a special type of antibody that creates the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
It does not necessarily mean you have an allergy to a specific medication, food, or another allergen. It simply means that your body generates a histamine reaction in response to exposure to that particular allergen. After all, the skin test is only one part of the process for accurately diagnosing allergies.
Allergies are no laughing matter for the millions of Americans who suffer from them on any given day. Skin allergy test results can help you make more informed decisions about your treatment options, your lifestyle choices, and how to limit your exposure to allergens for optimal quality of life all around. Most people can live lives that are virtually symptoms free with the right course of treatment. That begins, for the most part, with skin tests for allergies.
To get a skin allergy test, contact us here at Houston ENT by giving us a call at 281-649-7000 or requesting an appointment by completing our online form.