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What to Know about Allergy Testing

Allergy skin testing may be used to identify the allergens that are causing your allergy symptoms.

Some common airborne allergens you can be tested for include:

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Hay fever (pollen, ragweed, grass, etc.)

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Dust mites

How Does Allergy Testing Work?

Typically, allergy tests are conducted by introducing allergens to your skin and monitoring for a reaction. Substances you are sensitive to will cause red bumps or irritation. While most allergy tests involve pricking the skin, which may cause discomfort, others include allergy blood tests.

The allergens used in the test are proteins that come from individual species. For example, you’ll be able to tell not only that you’re allergic to pet dander, but whether you’re specifically allergic to dogs or cats.

Types of Allergy Testing

Allergy Skin Tests

Skin tests are usually the first place to start in assessing your allergies and quickly produce results.

  • The “prick” test is the most common. A diluted allergen is dropped onto the skin and pricked on the surface to allow exposure.
  • An intradermal test is similar but uses a thin needle to inject the diluted allergen below the skin

During a skin test, your skin will be marked with a pen to identify each substance being tested. A drop of each allergen is placed on the pen mark on your skin and then pricked (or injected). Allergists usually test the skin on forearms or backs. You receive your results during your visit.

Allergy Blood Tests

In some cases, a doctor may draw blood and send it to a laboratory rather than conduct a skin test. Your allergist may order a blood test if a skin prick test might not be suitable for you if you are taking certain medications or have a skin condition that may interfere with skin testing. Talk to your doctor about whether or not an allergy blood test is right for you.

Preparing for Your Allergy Test

It’s important to log your allergy symptoms before visiting the allergist. Be prepared to discuss any medications you might be taking when you make your appointment.

What’s Next

Following the results of the allergy test, your doctor can discuss on an allergy management plan including how to anticipate and avoid your allergy triggers. You will likely find that simple adjustments to your daily or nighttime routine can prevent or limit the irritants from causing you discomfort.