Allergies are an overreaction of your immune system to a specific item (allergen). Allergic reactions can range from mildly annoying like sneezing and itching to potentially life-threatening problems.
Allergy tests are a group of tests. They are used to identify the allergens that are causing your allergic reactions. Your doctor can use this information to help you make an allergy management plan.
Allergy tests can cause itchiness locally. It is rare but some may have a severe allergic reaction to allergens used in testing. Your doctor will monitor you for some time after the test to manage any negative reactions.
Keep a diary of your allergy symptoms. When you have symptoms, write them down, including:
- What time it happened
- Where it happened
- What you ate
- What you have come in contact with
For certain tests, your doctor may ask you to stop certain medications before the test.
There are several types of allergy tests:
- Blood testing—You will roll up your sleeve. The area will be cleaned with an antiseptic. An elastic band will be tied around your upper arm. A needle will be inserted into the vein. Blood will be collected into a vial. The elastic band will be untied and the needle will be removed. The blood sample will be sent to the lab for testing. The blood will be tested to see if it reacts to certain substances.
- Skin testing—The suspected cause of your allergic reaction will be applied directly to your skin. It may be applied with a shallow scratch or with a skin-prick needle. The needle will push the substance into the upper layer of your skin. For every allergen tested, you will have a separate scratch or skin prick. Redness and swelling will appear if you are allergic. It usually takes about 15-20 minutes to appear. This may be followed by intradermal testing. In this case, the allergen is placed deeper into the skin.
- Patch testing—Patches containing suspected allergens are placed on the skin. The patches will be left in place for 48 hours. You will be asked not to shower or get them wet. They will then be removed. The skin will be examined after 48-96 hours. If there is a reaction, the skin will become itchy at the site. A blister-like lesion may form.
Your doctor may recommend an antihistamine after the test. This can reduce itchiness at the test site. For severe allergies, make sure you have your EpiPen available.
- For blood testing: a few minutes
- For skin testing: 15-20 minutes
- For patch testing: 48 hours with the patch on, 48-96 hours for observation
You may have mild irritation where the substance is applied to the skin. The needle pricks are small but can be irritating.
Skin and patch test results are available immediately. Blood test results may take more time.
Avoiding your specific allergens will help lessen your symptoms. You and your doctor can also discuss additional steps to help control your allergic reactions.
After the test, call your doctor if you develop a severe rash or have any questions or concerns.
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Tips to remember: allergy testing.
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. Accessed December 7, 2012.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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