The lives of over 50 million people living in the United States are affected by allergies. The most common types of allergies include hay fever, seasonal allergies and inhaled allergens. More than 40 million Americans are affected by an allergic reaction to pollen. The estimate is asthma causes approximately 250,000 deaths every year. The majority of these deaths can be eliminated if the individuals affected receive proper care for their allergies.
Allergy testing can show the specific substances, molds or pollens you are allergic to. In some cases, allergy triggers can be avoided. In others, medication may be necessary to control your allergies. Trained allergy specialists perform allergy tests to determine if you show a reaction to certain substances. Allergy testing can be performed through a skin test, blood test or an elimination diet.
The natural defense of your body is the immune system. When this system overreacts to something found in the environment, the result is allergies. One of the most common overreactions is caused by pollen, which is harmless under most circumstances. The reaction can cause the following symptoms.
• Watery or itchy eyes
• Runny nose
• Blocked sinuses
The Different Kinds of Allergens
Allergins are a type of substance capable of triggering an allergic reaction. There are three main types of allergens. When you have an allergy test, you are exposed to a tiny amount of specific allergens. Your reaction is then recorded. The three key types of allergens are:
Contact Allergens: In order for a reaction to be produced by your skin, you have to come in direct contact with the allergen. A good example is the itching and rash resulting from contact with poison ivy.
Inhaled Allergens: When inhaled allergens come in contact with the membranes of your throat or nose or your lungs, your body is affected. The most common type of inhaled allergen is pollen.
Ingested Allergens: You will find ingested allergens in specific foods including seafood, soy and peanuts.
Preparing for Allergy Testing
Prior to being tested for allergies, you will be asked questions such as your family history and lifestyle choices. In most cases, you will be instructed to stop using certain medications prior to your test since the results of you tests can be affected. This includes:
• Over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines
• Specific heartburn medications
• Tricyclic antidepressants
The Different Types of Allergy Testing
Your allergy testing may require either a blood test or a skin test. If your physician believes you may have an allergy to a specific food, an elimination diet may be recommended. A lot of potential allergens can be identified through the use of a skin test including contact allergens, food-related allergens and airborne allergens. There are three different kinds of skin tests, patch, intradermal and scratch.
A scratch test is usually given first. For this test, an allergen is combined with a liquid. A special tool is then used to place the liquid on an area of your skin through a light puncture on the surface of your skin. You will be watched very closely to determine the reaction of your skin to the substance. If you are allergic to the allergen, there will be either localized swelling, itchiness, redness or elevation of your skin on the test site.
If your test is inconclusive, the next step is generally an intradermal skin test, An incredibly small amount of the allergen is injected into your skin. Your reaction will once again be closely monitored. The patch test is another type of skin test. Suspected allergens are loaded into adhesive patches prior to being placed on your skin. You will need to leave the patches on your skin after you have left the office.
Your patches will require review 48 hours after they have been applied and again after 72 to 96 hours. If there is a risk of a severe allergic reaction, a blood test may be performed instead of a skin test. Your blood will be tested in a lab to determine if there are antibodies known to fight off certain allergens. The test is referred to as ImmunoCap, and is extremely successful for revealing IgE antibodies.
If your allergic reactions are coming from foods, an elimination diet may be recommended to determine which foods are responsible for your reaction. You will need to eliminate specific foods from your diet prior to including them again. Your reaction will help reveal which foods are responsible for your allergies.
If you are experiencing allergies, your best option for relief is allergy testing. Call us now at 205-352-9141 so we can help.