Allergy Testing

A wide variety of substances may cause allergic reactions in some people. Allergy testing is the procedure used to determine which particular substances (allergens) are responsible for provoking an allergic reaction. The procedure used depends on the type of allergy but may include skin and blood tests or special diets.

Symptoms associated with allergies can include:

  • Skin rashes – such as eczema (atopic dermatitis) or hives (urticaria)
  • Swelling – or angioedema
  • Sneezing and running nose – or allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Teary, red, itchy eyes – or allergic conjunctivitis
  • Asthma
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anaphylaxis – this is a severe allergic reaction that causes serious breathing problems. Anaphylaxis can be fatal

Medical issues to consider

Before undergoing allergy testing, you need to discuss a range of issues with your doctor, including:

  • Your medical history
  • Clinical symptoms and when they occur
  • Possible allergen triggers
  • Any medicines you take that may interfere with skin prick test reactions, such as antihistamines.

The procedures

Specific tests are needed to determine which substance or substances are causing an allergy. These tests can include:

  • Allergen-specific IgE blood tests (RAST) – these tests are useful when skin testing is not possible or is inconclusive. A blood sample is taken and the level of an immunoglobulin associated with allergic reaction (allergen-specific IgE) is measured in a laboratory.
  • Elimination diets and challenge testing – an elimination diet is used to isolate foods that may be causing an allergic reaction. This usually takes a number of weeks and involves avoiding foods identified as common causes of food allergy. No foods or fluids may be consumed other than those specified. If symptoms improve, foods are added one at a time until symptoms recur (this is known as ‘challenge testing’). Usually, a diary is kept to record any symptoms so they can be linked to the correct food. This procedure must only be performed under medical supervision.
  • Allergen specific IgG blood tests- these are more useful tests when looking for food sensitivities and people with irritable bowel problems.

Long-term outlook

Allergy testing can help a person suffering from allergies to discover which allergens trigger their symptoms.

In some cases, an experienced allergist can offer immunotherapy. This exposes a person to increasing amounts of a particular allergen, to a point where they no longer have symptoms when exposed to ‘normal’ amounts of that allergen or they experience reduced symptoms. Immunotherapy should be conducted only under strict medical supervision.

Other forms of treatment

Other forms of treatment for allergies include:

  • Avoiding the allergens
  • Taking medications to treat the symptoms, including over-the-counter medications available from your chemist (such as corticosteroid nasal sprays or antihistamines)
  • Using natural substances to help stabilize mast cells (cells that release histamine)

Begin Your Journey to Allergy Testing with Patients Medical

Our job at Patients Medical is to listen, to connect the dots between a patient's medical history, symptoms, and their underlying causes. Patients Medical is a superb place for women and men to secure integrative and holistic health care from providers who give personalized care, partner with the patient to focus on the root cause of their illness, support their recovery, and help them maintain good health.

To make an appointment with one of our physicians, please call us at 1-212-794-8800. We look forward to hearing from you.


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