Allergy doctors help patients identify conditions and substances that trigger reactions on their skin, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, and more. Most people are familiar with seasonal allergies, asthma, and eczema, chronic health conditions linked to the hyperactivity of the immune system.
If you have allergy symptoms, see a specialist for testing and ongoing management. Here are some details on what to expect.
The Purpose of Allergy Testing
Allergy testing gives an allergist information that helps with diagnosis and treatment planning. By learning what causes a patient’s symptoms, such as runny eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, or skin rash, an allergist can help them treat the underlying cause and control symptoms.
An allergy doctor may recommend one or more of five basic tests used to identify allergy triggers. The tests are done in-office and usually require no special preparation beyond discontinuing antihistamines, decongestants,and other home treatments for a number of days.
Here are the tests an allergy doctor may perform.
1. Skin Prick Test
After cleansing your skin, the allergy doctor will introduce tiny amounts of possible allergens under the skin on your forearm. The substances may be animal dander, tree pollen, peanuts,and other common allergic triggers. You may be tested for up to 40 allergens.
In subsequent minutes, you may develop red wheals, or raised bumps of varying severity, at one or more of the skin prick sites if there is an allergy to specific substances. The doctor “reads” the skin reactions on the forearm to see which substance caused a reaction. The substances that caused a physical reaction are diagnosed as allergy triggers.
2. Intradermal Patch Test
More suited to suspected airborne allergens or insect sting reactions, the patch test introduces suspected triggers into the outermost layer of the skin, or epidermis. As with the skin prick test, the doctor waits a specified amount of time and then assesses any developed wheals. Patch testing is helpful when skin prick tests are not conclusive and certain allergens are suspected.
3. Patch Test
Besides skin prick tests, allergists often use patch tests to determine skin allergies and to diagnose eczema, or atopic dermatitis. The suspect substance is placed on a small dermal patch and adhered to the forearm. Patients wear patches for two to three days and then go back to the allergist for reading.
4. Immunoglobulin (IgE) Blood Test
The doctor draws blood and has it lab analyzed for elevated levels of IgE. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is present in high levels when a person is allergic to certain foods and substances in the everyday environment. IgE causes the body to release histamines into the person’s bloodstream, and the histamine, in turn, produces reactions such as sneezing, mucus production, hives, and more.
5. Oral Food Challenge (OFC)
Used when other allergy assessments prove inconclusive, the oral food challenge involves eating samples of foods that the patient may be allergic to. The amount of food consumed during testing is very gradually increased to pinpoint when a reaction takes place. Once an allergy reaction is triggered, testing stops. The allergist monitors the test and can administer epinephrine or an antihistamine in the case of a severe reaction to a food.
Allergy Doctors in Plainfield, Downers Grove, Elmhurst and Naperville, ILL
At Oak Brook Allergists, our three board-certified allergists and their professional team are passionate about helping people manage allergies. From skin allergies and hayfever to anaphylaxis caused by bee stings or latex, our physicians diagnose and treat it all.
Call today for a consultation at one of our four convenient locations: (630) 574-0460, or use our online appointment request form.