In our last post, we explained why nearly every doctor should offer allergy skin testing. (If you missed it, click here.) Here are patients’ top seven questions about the test.
1) Should I have an allergy skin test? Allergies cause many more symptoms than the average person realizes, including rashes (dermatitis), sinus infections, migraine headaches, dizziness, conjunctivitis, respiratory problems, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and the list goes on. If you get any of these symptoms regularly, you should discuss the possibility of allergies with your doctor, who will likely suggest the test and a review of your health history.
2) Can my child have the test? The test is safe for children as well as seniors. In fact, it is appropriate for virtually everyone, with the exception of pregnant women, patients with unexplained episodes of anaphylaxis, patients with active hives or active severe asthma symptoms, and people with significantly suppressed immune systems.
3) What does it test for? AllerVision-affiliated providers test for a wide variety of airborne antigens common to your region of the country — such as pollen from local trees, grasses and molds — as well as molds, dust, animal dander, cockroaches and certain foods. If you suspect allergies to specific foods, your provider may test you separately for those individual items.
4) What happens during the test? Your provider presses several plastic applicators coated with antigens onto your back. As your skin reacts to certain antigens, you may feel itchiness. After 15 minutes, the provider measures any bumps (or “wheals”) that develop — indicating positive results — and record them. Then he or she cleans your back to relieve any discomfort.
5) Does it hurt? No. You’ll temporarily feel minor pressure from the tines of the testing devices as they’re applied, but they don’t penetrate your skin and they’re specially-designed to prevent pain. Even young children rarely complain. Itching caused by positive results begins to resolve as soon as the antigens are wiped away.
6) Is there anything I need to do to prepare? The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t take antihistamines for three days before testing because they can prevent the very reactions your provider needs to see. Also, be sure to inform your provider if you’re pregnant, have asthma, are suffering from severe illness, or have experienced a strong allergic reaction.
7) How long does it take to get results? In just 15 minutes, your doctor will have a clear picture of your allergic reactions so you can plan and begin a treatment program immediately.