Allergy is a common condition that propels in the body as a reaction against the invasion of a foreign substance in the human system. Most allergens are found in pets, bee stings, pollens, dust mites, latex or other similar materials, insects, molds, ticks, and certain food items and medicines. Allergy testing is the best way to know which substance is causing an allergic reaction. Common allergy testing methods include skin tests, blood tests and elimination diet.
An allergy is a condition in which the body's immune system reacts to the presence of an unknown substance in the internal environment that could cause harm to the body. These foreign substances are known as allergens and are typically found in pets, pollens, bee stings, dust mites, insects, latex or other similar materials, molds, ticks, some specific foods, and medicines. An allergy testing is a way to check for the presence such allergens which have triggered an allergic response. The examination can be done by either conducting a blood test, a skin test or an elimination diet.
During an allergic reaction, the immune system releases a series of antibodies in the bloodstream. These are a kind of protein that intimate the cells of the body to stop the foreign substance. The cells in return send out histamine, a unique chemical made by the immune system which causes the blood vessels to swell and these trigger allergic symptoms.
Different allergies showcase different symptoms. These range from mild to severe, and some are even life-threatening in nature. Basically, it depends on how the body reacts to them and how much of the allergens have entered the human system. Here, listed are some common types of allergies and their prominently visible symptoms.
Hay Fever – Clinically known as allergic rhinitis, it usually causes severe sneezing; a runny or stuffy nose; itchy eyes, nose and the upper portion of the mouth; and swollen, red and watery eyes.
Food Allergy – In this, a person is expected to feel tingling in the mouth. The lips, face, throat and tongue may swell up, or the individual may also get hives. In an extreme situation, the person may have anaphylaxis and must keep immediate medical assistance to mitigate the chances of losing life.
Eczema – Or otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, it’s a kind of a skin condition wherein the affected person may experience itching, peeling or flaking and redness of the skin.
Certain Medications – Certain salts do not very well gel-up with the human system and cause rashes, facial swelling, or even hives. In worst case scenarios, some individuals may also develop anaphylaxis.
Stings – Those who are allergies to pets, bees and other insects may experience symptoms such as:-
- Edema at the site of the sting
- Itching or hives all over the body
- Wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.
Allergy testing typically involves doing a blood or skin test in order to find out which external substance or allergen is causing allergic response or symptoms.
During a skin allergy testing procedure, a small amount of expected allergen is exposed to or placed on the skin to check if it’s the cause of allergy in the body. There are three main kinds of skin tests:-
- Skin Prick Test – In this test, a small portion of the skin is first pierced using a needle. Then, a solution containing a plausible allergen is dropped on the scratched patch. If the skin turns red or develops a wheal, it means that the person is allergic to that particular allergen.
- Intradermal Test – This test is usually done when a substance doesn’t cause a reaction during a skin prick test but is highly suspected to be the actual cause of allergy. During an intradermal test, a small quantity of an allergen in injected in the skin and reactions are noted. It’s supposedly a more sensitive test than skin prick test.
- Skin Patch Test – During this test, an allergen solution laden pad is tied to the skin for about one to three days. It’s typically used for detecting contact dermatitis in individuals.
Blood Allergy Testing
An allergy blood test looks for the presence of antibodies released by the immune system in the bloodstream against the invasion of foreign substances in the body. These blood tests are less sensitive in nature but are equally authentic in nature as skin allergy tests. One of the most common types of blood test for allergy testing is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, EIA). It maps the level of immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the bloodstream as it causes the onset of allergy symptoms. Another known blood test radioallergosorbent testing (RAST) or an immunoassay capture test is also used for gathering more information about the allergic reactions.
This test is usually done to check allergy against certain food items. In an elimination diet, a patient is asked to eliminate the foods that are suspected to cause allergic reactions for a specific period and then to add them back to the diet chart to map the changes.
Post an allergy test, it is essential to seek medical assistance right away in order to avoid the onset of severe conditions in the body. Consult a physician and take prescribed medicines on time to eliminate the condition.
The author is a renowned general physician who works with one of the leading medical hospitals of India. She likes to write blogs and articles on various health and medicine related topics such as test for EEG, HbA1c blood test, allergy testing, cardio-related issues, and more.