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.
Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- runny nose
- blocked sinuses
- itchy and watery eyes
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 skin test: the skin test and the blood test. Skin test, the most common allergy testing method, is being performed when the doctor or specialist places a small amount of possible allergen on or below the skin to see if a reaction is developed. Blood test, only performed if the person is not eligible to undergo skin test, is used to look for antibodies, or substances inside the blood.
Common types of allergies
There are many types of allergies:
- Drug allergy - taking certain medications can trigger you to develop rashes, hives, or difficulty breathing.
- 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 to 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
What allergens are tested in an allergy test?
Skin tests are most reliable in determining allergies to airborne substances like pollen, dust, mites, and pet dander. Skin test may also be used to diagnose food allergies but additional tests or procedures may be needed since food allergies are quite complex. Blood tests are performed to detect the presence of certain antibodies that fight against specific allergens.
How do I prepare for allergy testing?
Before undergoing an allergy test, you must first tell your doctor important details such as lifestyle, family and medical history that could help in the diagnosis of certain allergies.
It is important to know that you need to stop taking certain medications before the test as they interfere and affect the test results. 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?
There are several natural remedies available for having relief from allergic reactions.
- Eating an anti-inflammatory, alkaline diet to reduce risk for developing allergies and other health problems. Some foods and ingredients that can be incorporated to 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.