What is Allergy Testing?
Allergies occur when the immune system, the body's natural defense against infectious organisms and other foreign bodies that can bring harm to one's health, overreacts to any substance in the environment that is typically harmless. These substances are called allergens. Common allergens include dust, pollen, and hair, and coming into contact with these may cause runny nose, sneezing, blocked sinuses, itchy and watery eyes or hives.
An allergy test is performed by a trained specialist to determine if an allergen may trigger an allergic reaction in a person. The results of the allergy test is used to help in the diagnosis of certain allergic conditions.
Primarily, there are two types of allergy test: the skin test and the blood test. A skin test, the most common allergy testing method, involves the placing of a small amount of possible allergen on or below the skin to see if a reaction is developed. A blood test, which is only performed if the person is not eligible to undergo a skin test, is used to detect antibodies, or substances, in the blood.
How Does Allergy Testing Work?
A skin test can point out which allergies are caused by airborne substances like pollen, dust, mites, and pet dander. It's also used to diagnose food allergies, but additional tests or procedures may be needed since food allergies are quite complex. During a skin test, the allergist may prick the skin of the patient or stick a patch with an allergen on their back.
Blood tests, on the other hand, measure the amount of IgE, a type of antibody which the immune system produces as a reaction to an allergen. These tests are advisable for people who are under medication or cannot tolerate a skin test because of a serious skin condition. Here's a list of allergies that you can be tested for:
- Drug allergy - taking certain medications can trigger you to develop rashes, hives, or breathing problems.
- Food allergy - eating certain food items, or a substance in a food, can trigger allergies. You can also develop allergies on food you have been eating for a long time with no problems.
- Insect allergy - you can develop an allergic reaction from stinging insects such as bees, wasps, and ants. It should be noted to distinguish between a normal reaction and an allergic reaction. Non-stinging insects like dust mites and cockroaches can cause allergic reactions.
- Latex allergy - the natural rubber latex can cause allergic reactions in some people.
- Mold allergy - mold allergies can be difficult to outrun since mold can thrive everywhere.
- Pet allergy - it is common to have allergies to pets with fur such as dogs and cats.
- Pollen allergy - one of the most common triggers of seasonal allergies
Some allergy tests can also be done online.
What Are the Benefits of Allergy Testing?
Allergy testing is the key to unlocking a clear-cut solution for your long-standing allergies. Nothing can be more empowering than knowing what substances trigger them and being able to decide what steps to take to keep them away. Additionally, the results of your allergy test can guide your primary care provider in developing a treatment plan to manage, if not eliminate altogether, your symptoms.
What Can You Expect From Allergy Testing?
Before undergoing an allergy test, your doctor will evaluate the state of your health and look at your lifestyle, family and medical history. The pieces of information they gather are crucial in the diagnosis of the type of allergy that you have.
Certain medications may interfere with the test results, so it is important to know what these are and stop taking them before getting tested. Some of these medications include:
- Prescription and over-the-counter antihistamines
- Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil), nortriptyline (Pamelor) and desipramine (Norpramin)
- Certain heartburn treatment medications like famotidine (Pepcid),cimetidine (Tagamet) and ranitidine (Zantac)
- Anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) monoclonal antibody asthma treatment, omalizumab (Xolair)
- Benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam (Ativan)
What Are the Best Natural Treatments for Allergies?
Once you know what triggers your allergic reactions and have worked out a treatment plan with your doctor, you will no longer feel helpless. In fact, why not put your allergy control gear at full blast by using natural remedies as an adjunct therapy? There are several that can relieve your allergic reactions, and the list includes:
- Maintain an anti-inflammatory, alkaline diet to reduce risk for developing allergies and other health problems. Some foods and ingredients that can be incorporated into the diet to help fight against allergies include garlic, lemons, green leafy vegetables, probiotic foods, bone broth, coconut milk, almond butter and seeds, gluten-free flour or grains, and breast milk.
- Consuming raw honey or bee pollen helps build tolerance against pollen.
- Drinking a glass of water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- Eating plant foods with quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant, helps reduce allergies as they help calm down its hyperactivity in the sinuses.
- Using neti pots can clear the sinuses and remove congestion.
- Stinging nettle controls histamines.
- Essential oils, such as eucalyptus oil and frankincense oil, help in killing allergic house mites.
- Exercise helps reduce allergy symptoms as it produces an anti-inflammatory effect in the nasal pathways.