Allergies, in any form, are inconvenient, sometimes to the point of interfering with daily life. Since they stem from your immune system overreacting to otherwise harmless substances, reactions can be complex and disruptive. Serious allergies that can cause anaphylactic shock are potentially deadly, so understanding your own sensitivities can be crucial.
As allergy specialists, we at Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat regularly perform allergy testing to pinpoint the substances to which your body reacts. The most common form of allergy test is the skin scratch test, though we sometimes use blood testing to determine certain sensitivities.
Knowing the precise nature of your allergies helps to manage your response, whether it’s avoidance, antihistamines, or immunotherapy. Here’s what you can expect from your allergy testing.
When it’s time for allergy testing
When you have ongoing physical symptoms that seem to correlate with particular conditions, you might be experiencing allergic reactions. Symptoms like itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, headaches, and congestion suggest allergic rhinitis, a respiratory condition brought on by airborne allergens like pollen, mold, dust, or pet dander.
Symptoms that occur soon after eating, like swelling in the mouth, hives, respiratory responses, or gastrointestinal effects suggest allergies to foods. Blisters, rashes, and itchy skin could result when you have contact allergies. These reactions indicate you could benefit from an allergy scratch test.
The scratch test process
Also called a skin prick test, this form of allergy testing is perhaps the most common way to evaluate sensitivity to specific allergens. Usually performed on the back or an arm, a scratch test can evaluate up to 50 specific allergens.
A series of shallow scratches in the test area permit small amounts of these allergens to react with your body. Typically within 15 minutes, the skin around a scratch starts to react, turning red or showing rash-like signs. These indicate that you have sensitivities to the allergen applied at that scratch. We’ll then evaluate all of your reactions to develop your allergy record.
Scratch testing checks allergens from airborne sources, insect stings, and medications like penicillin. Your allergy record serves as a basis for formulating a customized immunotherapy serum for you, more commonly known as an allergy shot, to help you reset your immune system by building resistance for the allergens to which you respond.
If you have skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis affecting large areas, you may not be a candidate for scratch testing. Similarly, antidepressant, antihistamine, or some heartburn medications could affect your results, requiring another testing method. The same holds true if you have a known severe allergic reaction that induces anaphylaxis with even a small exposure to a substance. This is best confirmed with another form of allergy testing.
This will usually be in the form of a blood test. A lab exposes allergens to a sample of your blood before measuring for certain antibodies. This type of test can produce more false positive results, but it’s safe since it happens outside your body.
Contact Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat by phone or online using the appointment link on this page to schedule an allergy test for yourself or a member of your family today.