Like clockwork, every spring or fall, you wake up one day with swollen, red eyes and a congested nose. You think you have allergies, but you aren’t sure what you’re allergic to. While you can’t easily diagnose your allergies on your own, your doctor can perform an allergy test to pinpoint exactly what your body is reacting to. Once you know what you’re allergic to, it’s much easier to put together a plan for treating your allergies.
Before the Test
Before testing you for allergies, your doctor will usually want to get to know more about your symptoms and your medical history. They’ll likely ask you about the type of symptoms you have, such as sneezing, congestion, eye irritation and so on, and about when your symptoms occur (such as seasonally or year-round). Your doctor might also ask you about your family history, such as if any members of your immediate family have allergies and if so, what they are allergic to.
Some medications can interfere with or alter the results of an allergy test, so it’s important to tell your doctor about anything you take regularly, whether over-the-counter or prescription. If you do take an antihistamine or other medication that interferes with allergy testing, your doctor might ask you to stop taking the medicine for a week or so before the test.
Skin Allergy Test
Two types of allergy test are available. Usually, a skin allergy test is the preferred method of testing, because it provides results quickly and usually costs less than a blood test.
A skin allergy test can be performed in a few different ways. The most common test involves scratching the allergen into the skin. During the test, a nurse or doctor will make a series of marks on your arm or back, noting the allergen that is being tested in each spot. They will then place a drop of the allergen on the skin and will use a small needle to scratch it in, just under the surface.
If you’re allergic to a particular substance, your skin will react. Usually, a small bump will develop. It will look like a mosquito bite. People who have a reaction during an allergy test usually notice the change within a few minutes of the allergen being scratched into the skin. The entire testing process typically takes less than an hour.
Your doctor might order a different type of skin allergy test, depending on the results of the first test or depending on the suspected allergen. Instead of scratching the allergen into the skin, the second type of allergy test injects the allergen into the skin. It usually takes about 15 minutes for your skin to react, if it’s going to react at all.
There are occasional cases when a person doesn’t have a reaction to any of the allergens while they are at the doctor’s office. They return home and notice a small bump on the skin at the site of the test a day or so later. Some people have a delayed reaction to the test. If that happens to you, it’s important to let your doctor know.
Blood Allergy Test
People who have sensitive skin might not be good candidates for a skin allergy test. If your skin reacts to pretty much anything, it will be difficult to tell what you’re allergic to. For that reason, your doctor might order a blood test instead of a skin allergy test. Your doctor might also recommend a blood allergy test if you’re taking a medication that will interfere with the skin test and you’re unable to pause the medication.
It takes a bit longer to get results from a blood allergy test than it does from a skin allergy test. Your doctor will draw a sample of your blood and send it to a lab. Or, you’ll visit the lab directly for the blood draw. After that, it can take a few days or longer for the lab to test the blood and report any findings to your doctor.
Once you and your doctor know what substances you’re allergic to, you can put together a plan for treatment. Often, avoiding the allergen is the recommended course of action. Other options include immunotherapy to help your body learn not to react to the substance or taking medications to reduce your body’s allergic reactions.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience in helping patients with sinus problems and allergies in the Hudson Valley. A double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as the functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. If you’re interested in learning more about allergy testing, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.