If you have allergies, you are not alone: More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. Allergy testing is an accurate way to pinpoint the source of the allergen which triggers your reaction, thereby allowing your doctor to treat it effectively.
The immune system is designed to fight germs to keep us healthy, but it can mistakenly overreact to ordinary substances that are not harmful – and this is an allergic reaction. Common allergens are plant pollen and certain foods.
When an allergic person is exposed to an allergen, it causes the white blood cells to produce antibodies – which trigger the release of chemicals and hormones called mediators. Particular mediators, such as histamine, cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Most allergies can be classified as either a food allergy or an environmental allergy. Common allergens include pollen, mold, pet dander, insect stings/bites, dust mites, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, and medicines such as penicillin.
Each individual can react to an allergen in a different way. Common allergy symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, hives and swelling, or a red itchy skin rash known as contact dermatitis. Some allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, can be life-threatening and therefore require emergency medical attention.
How Is an Allergy Determined?
In order to successfully treat an allergy, you need to know exactly what is causing it. Allergy testing is an effective way to determine which allergens cause a reaction in an individual.
Skin Prick Allergy Tests
The skin prick allergy test, also referred to as a scratch test, is the most common test for allergies. This type of test involves pricking the skin a number of times in a particular area (usually the forearm or the back).
A small amount of an allergen is then placed on the tiny break in the skin, thereby allowing a small amount of the allergen to come into contact with the cells of the immune system beneath the skin’s surface – this is done for observation. Several possible allergens can be tested at once on the several pricked areas of the skin.
The results occur fairly quickly, usually within 15 or 20 minutes. If the test is positive, raised bumps (hives) will appear on the skin, indicating an allergic reaction to the substance. The procedure is closely monitored throughout, to identify any signs of allergy such as redness, hives, or itching.
Blood Allergy Test
A blood allergy test prevents exposing the patient to potential allergens. This test involves taking a sample of blood, which is then sent to a lab for testing with various allergens.
This type of test can detect and measure the amount of allergen-specific antibodies in the blood that are produced by the immune system in response to an allergen. High levels of antibodies, primarily immunoglobulin, may indicate an allergic reaction to a specific substance.
Allergy blood tests usually screen for at least 10 of the most common allergy triggers, such as dust, pet dander, mold, and common pollens. These tests can also be particularly helpful in diagnosing food allergies, and this may be the preferred testing method if there is a high risk of severe allergic reaction to a skin prick allergy test.
Allergy Testing and Treatment in Georgetown, TX
If you have allergies, don’t suffer any longer. Talk to the ear, nose, throat, and allergy specialists at Georgetown ENT today for an accurate diagnosis and treatment that works for you.