It might surprise you to know that over 50 million people in the United States experience some form of allergies every year. Although 1 in 6 Americans are affected by allergies, many cases go undiagnosed. That could mean that the sniffles or itchy eyes you get on occasion are actually allergic and not just random bouts of discomfort. While most allergies are harmless and will not put your life in danger, they can often interfere with how we live our lives and arise at the most inconvenient times. It is essential to get an allergy test to rule out the possibility that your symptoms are caused by allergies.
What tests does an allergist do?
Allergists perform a number of different tests, each with their unique purpose and specific application. Some of the tests an allergist might perform include:
Allergy Skin Testing — Allergy skin tests are used to determine suspected allergens that are causing a reaction, including environmental or seasonal allergies, food allergies, insect allergies, and certain medication allergies. During a skin test, the suspected allergen is placed on the skin for 15 minutes. After this time, the area is evaluated for any signs of an allergic reaction. The allergist performing the tests will determine which specific type of skin test is required for your unique situation. All test results are interpreted by the allergist. There are different methods for skin testing, including:
- Prick skin testing: Individual solutions containing the suspected allergens are placed on the skin, which is then pricked using a device to allow the allergens into the dermis. The test results are available 15 minutes later.
- Intradermal skin testing: Individual solutions containing the suspected allergens are placed just underneath the surface of the skin via an intradermal injection. The test results are available 15 minutes later.
Blood Tests — In addition to skin testing, some patients may require blood tests to determine the source of their allergies. Blood tests are often ordered when a skin test cannot be performed, including:
- When a patient cannot discontinue certain medications such as antihistamines, as these would interfere with the skin test results
- Patients with dermatographia, a condition that causes hives on the skin when scratched
- Patients with skin rashes/lesions that prevent the examiner from accurately reading the results
Why would you need an allergy test?
It may be recommended to receive an allergy test, if:
- Your allergies are causing symptoms such as:
- Chronic sinus infections
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- You experience allergy symptoms, including hay fever, several months out of the year
- Your allergy symptoms are not effectively controlled with antihistamines or over-the-counter medications, or these medications cause unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness
- Your allergies are interfering with your ability to perform everyday activities
- Your allergies decrease the quality of your life
What are some options for allergy treatment?
The following are the most common forms of allergy treatment:
Allergen avoidance — Once the triggers have been established, avoiding them is often possible. However, in some cases, avoiding triggers is not always a possibility.
Medications — Some medications can effectively control allergy symptoms, from over-the-counter tablets to prescription nebulizers.
Immunotherapy — To effectively build a resistance to allergens, immunotherapy exposes the patient to minute amounts of the allergen, slowly building a tolerance and recognizing that the substances causing a reaction are actually harmless.
Emergency epinephrine — Most people have heard on an EpiPen, the most common type of emergency epinephrine. These are used only when a patient has a life-threatening allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis.
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of allergies, it is important to determine the cause. The allergy tests performed at PC Medical Centers can help you pinpoint what is triggering your reactions, and the caring professionals can help you find the best treatment for your individual situation. Call us today to book an appointment. We serve patients from Cape Girardeau MO, Oak Ridge MO, Scott City MO, Jackson MO, Chaffee MO, Whitewater MO, Shawnee Township MO, and Whitewater MO. Looking forward to serve you!