August 1, 2019

What to Expect From an Allergy Test

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on what to expect from an allergy test! If you're experiencing symptoms such as sneezing, itching, or congestion, you may be wondering if allergies are the culprit. Allergy testing is a valuable tool used to identify specific allergens triggering your symptoms, paving the way for targeted treatment and symptom relief. In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about allergy testing, from the different types of tests available to what happens during the testing process, and what comes next. Whether you're a first-time test taker or looking to learn more about the process, we're here to provide you with the information and guidance you need to navigate your allergy testing journey with confidence. Let's dive in!

How to prepare for your allergy test

Preparing for your allergy test at Aspire Allergy & Sinus is crucial to ensure accurate results and a successful appointment. We recommend discontinuing certain medications that could interfere with the effectiveness of your test at least five days before your appointment. This includes all antihistamines such as Claritin, Allegra, Benadryl, and Zyrtec, as well as allergy eye drops, vitamins, supplements, and any sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops). Additionally, medications like Advil PM, Tylenol PM, NyQuil, or any medication containing antihistamines should be avoided. 

Before getting an allergy test, it's critical to inform us about any prescription medications you're taking, including heart medications, blood pressure medications, tricyclic antidepressants, psychiatric medications, sleep aids, or over-the-counter medications, as they may also need to be adjusted. Beta blockers should be stopped 24 hours before your allergy test. 

If you've experienced a severe allergic reaction or if you're pregnant or suspect you might be, please contact our office immediately to discuss any necessary precautions. Your safety and the accuracy of your allergy test are our top priorities.

How long does an allergy test take?

The duration of an allergy test at Aspire Allergy & Sinus can vary depending on the specific type of testing being conducted. For instance, skin prick testing, which is one of the most common methods, typically takes around 90 minutes to two hours to complete. This includes the time for the team to review your medical history, discuss any questions you may have, and administer the skin prick test itself.On the other hand, a blood draw for blood allergy testing takes just a few moments. Your allergist can address any concerns you have about the length of your test. 

How does an allergy test work?

Allergy testing encompasses various methods tailored to identify specific allergens triggering allergic reactions. What happens during an allergy test depends on the method your allergist uses.

Skin Prick Testing

Skin prick testing involves placing small amounts of suspected allergens on the skin, typically the forearm or back, followed by pricking or scratching the skin's surface. This allows the allergens to enter the skin, stimulating a localized immune response if an allergy is present. After a brief waiting period, usually around 20 minutes, the allergist examines the skin for any signs of allergic reactions, such as redness, swelling, or itching. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we utilize this method to test for up to 58 of the most common allergens, enabling us to accurately identify what triggers your allergic reactions.

Intradermal Testing

Intradermal testing, on the other hand, involves injecting small amounts of allergen extracts into the skin's superficial layers, usually on the forearm. This method is more sensitive than skin prick testing but carries a slightly higher risk of causing severe allergic reactions.

Blood Testing

Blood testing involves drawing a blood sample and measuring the levels of specific antibodies (IgE) produced by the immune system in response to particular allergens. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis, where it's exposed to a panel of allergens to determine the presence and severity of allergic reactions. It typically takes a few days to a week for the laboratory to process the blood sample and provide the results to your allergist. During this time, you may be advised to continue avoiding certain allergens or taking any necessary medications to manage your symptoms. This method is particularly useful for individuals who cannot undergo skin testing due to certain medical conditions or for whom skin testing may be inconclusive.

Patch Testing

Patch testing is a specialized form of allergy testing used to diagnose delayed allergic reactions, such as contact dermatitis. It involves applying small amounts of suspected allergens, typically in the form of patches or discs, to the skin, usually on the back. The patches are left in place for 48 hours, during which time the skin is monitored for any signs of allergic reactions, such as redness, swelling, or itching. Patch testing is particularly helpful in identifying allergens responsible for allergic skin conditions caused by direct contact with substances like metals, fragrances, or preservatives.

Regardless of the specific method used, allergy testing aims to pinpoint the allergens triggering an individual's allergic reactions, allowing allergists to develop personalized treatment plans tailored to their patients' needs. Each testing method has its advantages and limitations, and the choice of approach depends on factors such as the type and severity of allergies, the patient's medical history, and any contraindications to certain testing methods. Your allergist will work closely with you to determine the most appropriate testing approach based on your unique circumstances and symptoms.

What does an allergy test consist of?

An allergy test typically consists of a comprehensive evaluation designed to identify specific allergens triggering allergic reactions in an individual. During the initial consultation, the allergist will review the patient's medical history, including any known allergies, symptoms, and relevant environmental or dietary factors. Based on this information, the allergist will recommend one or more testing methods tailored to the patient's needs and circumstances. These tests involve exposing the patient to small amounts of suspected allergens and monitoring their body's response to identify any allergic reactions. 

The allergist will then interpret the test results and work with the patient to develop a personalized treatment plan, which may include allergen avoidance strategies, medication management, immunotherapy (such as allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy), or other interventions aimed at alleviating allergy symptoms and improving the patient's quality of life. Throughout the testing process, the allergist ensures patient comfort and safety, providing guidance and support every step of the way.

Side effects of allergy testing

Allergy testing is generally safe and well-tolerated, but like any medical procedure, it carries a small risk of side effects. 

  • For skin prick testing and intradermal testing, potential side effects may include temporary discomfort, redness, swelling, or itching at the site of the test. In rare cases, individuals may experience more severe reactions such as fainting, dizziness, or anaphylaxis, although these reactions are extremely uncommon. 
  • Blood testing typically involves a simple blood draw and carries minimal risk of side effects. 
  • Patch testing, used to diagnose contact dermatitis, may cause mild irritation or itching at the site of application during the testing period.

It's essential for patients to communicate any discomfort or concerns to their allergist during and after testing to ensure prompt evaluation and appropriate management of any side effects that may arise.

Frequently asked questions about what to expect from an allergy test

How do you feel after allergy testing?

During allergy testing, you may experience some mild redness, swelling, or itching at the site of the test, especially if you've undergone skin prick or intradermal testing. However, these symptoms typically subside within a short period. In rare cases, some individuals may feel a bit tired or light headed immediately after testing, but this is usually temporary and resolves quickly. Serious reactions, such as anaphylaxis, are extremely rare but can occur, so it's essential to remain at the testing facility for a short observation period after testing, just to ensure your safety. Overall, most patients find allergy testing to be a straightforward and well-tolerated procedure, and any discomfort experienced is typically mild and short-lived. If you're wondering, "Does allergy testing hurt?" the answer is generally no.

How accurate are allergy tests?

Allergy tests are generally accurate diagnostic tools, but like any medical test, they are not infallible. The accuracy of allergy tests can vary depending on several factors, including the type of test used, the skill and experience of the allergist performing the test, and individual factors such as the patient's medical history and current symptoms. While these tests can provide valuable information about a patient's allergic sensitivities, they may not always accurately predict real-world allergic reactions. Additionally, false positives and false negatives can occur, meaning that a positive test result may not always indicate a true allergy, and vice versa. Your allergist will interpret your test results in conjunction with your medical history and symptoms to provide you with an accurate diagnosis.

Will I need to follow-up after an allergy test? 

If you choose to proceed with treatment, we will set up a follow-up appointment for you to determine how your treatment is working and if any adjustments need to be made to your prescription. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we offer three different types of long-term allergy treatment options: allergy drops, allergy shots, and ExACT Immunoplasty. Each of these treatment options is designed to desensitize your immune system to allergens gradually, reducing your allergic reactions over time. During your follow-up appointments, we will monitor your progress, adjust your treatment plan as needed, and provide ongoing support to help you manage your allergies effectively. Follow-up care is essential to ensure that you receive the maximum benefit from your allergy treatment and achieve long-lasting relief from your allergy symptoms.

Trust your allergy testing and treatment to Aspire Allergy & SInus

Now that you know what to expect at allergy testing, you're ready for the next step. Undergoing an allergy test is crucial in identifying specific allergens triggering your symptoms and developing an effective treatment plan tailored to your needs. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, we strive to provide a comprehensive and personalized testing experience, ensuring accuracy and safety throughout the process. From the initial consultation to the follow-up appointments, our team of experienced allergists is dedicated to guiding you through every step of your allergy testing journey with care and compassion. By understanding what to expect from an allergy test and the potential treatment options available, you can take proactive steps towards managing your allergies and improving your quality of life. If you're ready to take control of your allergies and experience long-lasting relief, schedule an appointment with us today

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