Allergy Testing

What is Allergy Testing?

If you are allergic, you are reacting to a particular substance. Any substance that can trigger an allergic reaction is called an allergen. To determine which specific substances are triggering your allergies, your allergist/immunologist will safely and effectively test your skin, or sometimes your blood, using tiny amounts of commonly troublesome allergens.

Allergy tests are designed to gather the most specific information possible so your doctor can determine what you are allergic to and provide the best treatment.

Which allergens will I be tested for?

Because your physician has made a diagnosis of allergies, you know that one or more allergens is causing your allergic reaction - itching, swelling, sneezing, wheezing, and other symptoms.

    Your symptoms are probably caused by one of these common allergens:  
  • Products from dust mites (tiny bugs you can’t see) that live in your home;
  • Proteins from furry pets, which are found in their skin secretions (dander), saliva and urine (it’s actually not their hair);
  • Molds in your home or in the air outside;
  • Tree, grass and weed pollen; and/or cockroach droppings.
What are the reasons for undergoing allergy skin testing?

To help you manage your allergy symptoms most effectively, your allergist/immunoloigst must first determine what is causing your allergy. For instance, you don’t have to get rid of your cat if you are allergic to dust mites but not cats.

Allergy tests provide concrete specific information about what you are and are not allergic to. Once you have identified the specific allergen(s) causing your symptoms, you and your physician can develop a treatment plan aimed at controlling or eliminating your allergy symptoms. With your allergy symptoms under control you should see a considerable improvement in the quality of your life. Improved sleep quality because of less congestion, days without constant sneezing and blowing your nose, improved ability to exercise, and better control of your atopic dermatitis (eczema) are some of improvements you may gain from your allergy treatment plans.

More serious allergic reactions can be caused by:
  • Venoms from the stings of bees, wasps, yellow jackets, fire ants and other stinging insects;
  • Foods;
  • Natural rubber latex, such as gloves or balloons; or
  • Drugs, such as penicillin.
All of these allergens are typically made up of proteins. Allergy tests find which of these proteins you may be reacting to. The allergen extracts or vaccines used in allergy tests are made commercially and are standardized according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements. Your allergist/immunologist is able to safely test you for allergies to substances listed above using these allergen extracts.
Who should be tested for allergies?

Adults and children of any age who have symptoms that suggest they have an allergic disease. Allergy symptoms can include:

  • Respiratory symptoms: itchy eyes, nose, or throat; nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, chest congestion or wheezing
  • Skin symptoms: hives, generalized itchiness or atopic dermatitis
  • Other symptoms: anaphylaxis (severe life-threatening allergic reactions), abdominal symptoms (cramping, diarrhea) consistently following particular foods, stinging insect reactions other than large local swelling at the sting site.
  • Generally, inhaled allergens such as dust mites, tree, grass or weed pollens will produce respiratory symptoms and ingested (food) allergies will produce skin and/or gastrointestinal symptoms or anaphylaxis but both types of allergens (ingested and inhaled) can produce the spectrum of allergy symptoms.