Allergy testing involves having a skin or blood test to find out what substance, or allergen, may trigger an allergic response in a person. Skin tests are usually done because they are rapid, reliable, and generally less expensive than blood tests, but either type of test may be used.
A small amount of a suspected allergen is placed on or below the skin to see if a reaction develops. Skin test results are obtained quickly, with positive reaction usually appearing in 15 to 30 minutes. There are two types of skin tests:
Skin prick test. This test is done by placing a drop of a solution containing a possible allergen on the skin, and a series of scratches or needle pricks allows the solution to enter the skin. If the skin develops a red, raised itchy area (called a wheal), it usually means that the person is allergic to that allergen. This is called a positive reaction.
Intradermal test. During this test, a small amount of the allergen solution is injected into the skin. An intradermal allergy test may be done when a substance does not cause a reaction in the skin prick test but is still suspected as an allergen for that person. The intradermal test is more sensitive than the skin prick test but
is more often positive in people who do not have symptoms to that allergen
(false-positive test results).
Why It Is Done?
Allergy testing is done to find out what substances (allergens) cause an allergic reaction.
Allergy testing measures how a person reacts to specific allergens, such as tree pollen, pet dander, foods, medications or molds. A “positive” allergy test means that a person has a specific allergic antibody to the substance tested. This often means that the person is allergic.
Allergy tests can be conducted for most common allergies, including plant pollens, molds, dust mites, animal dander, insect stings, drugs such as penicillin, and various foods such as peanuts, eggs, wheat, shellfish and milk.