Your body’s immune system works around the clock to defend itself against foreign invaders it has inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with.
It does this by producing antibodies known as, Immunoglobulin E, or (IgE). These travel through the body to cells, releasing chemicals, which cause individual allergic reactions.
These may include a multitude of symptoms including sneezing, itching, runny nose, hives—even the life-threatening reaction known as, “anaphylaxis” which can completely shut the body’s respiratory system down, among other functions.
Identifying Triggers—Allergy Testing
Physicians and medical practitioners combine a patient’s medical history and thorough physical examination with comprehensive allergy testing to determine specific allergy triggers.
Not every person who experiences an allergic reaction will need to undergo allergy testing however. Some people are already aware of a mild adverse reaction that involves one or two types of foods or substances and can control allergy symptoms by avoiding these foods/substances.
When To Call The Doctor
Certain symptoms if severe enough, or persistent may warrant allergy testing.
• Respiratory Symptoms- itchy, sticky eyes, nose or scratchy throat; nasal congestion, runny nose, congestion in the lungs, coughing, sneezing or wheezing
• Skin-related Symptoms- itchiness, hives, eczema, or rash
• Abdominal Symptoms- stomach upset, vomiting, cramping, gas, bloating, or diarrhea after consuming certain foods
• Insect sting reactions severe enough to cause respiratory problems or other major symptoms
• Anaphylaxis- a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction affecting several functions of the body
Common Allergy Tests Performed
An allergist or immunologist will generally perform one or more tests to identify specific allergens for patients. These will be evaluated along with the medical history.
IgE Skin Tests: The most common type of testing for allergies is the IgE Skin test, also known as the, “prick” test. This allows for a small amount of a specific allergen to be inserted under the skin. Once an allergic reaction occurs, a raised bump, (much like a mosquito bite) presents.
Challenge Tests: These are generally performed when food or medication allergies are suspected and involve inhaling or ingesting a small amount of the substance.
IgE Blood Tests: These may be performed when skin tests are not safe or viable for patients, because of skin conditions or certain medications, which may interfere with results.
Protections and Precautions
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) does not support the following tests, (test methodologies):
Drug store/supermarket allergy screening
Rinkel skin titration method
Provocative neutralization testing
(IgG) testing for food allergy