What to Expect from an Allergy Test

The first step in successfully dealing with an allergy is to find out exactly what it is you’re allergic to.

An allergy skin test administered by an allergist or physician is a safe and effective way to understand specific allergic reactions and to help develop an allergy treatment plan.

Growing up, I suffered from seasonal allergies that have only progressed and grown worse. In certain situations I’ve experienced asthma, constant sneezing, watery eyes and reactions in which I could not trace back the cause. To finally be proactive about it, I decided to visit an allergist to figure out my allergies and the causes behind the reactions I’ve experienced. Along with most people, I was very nervous since I did not know what to expect.

What is Involved

Expect the test to take at least 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the tests and time of the reactions that will be performed on you. There are a couple different skin tests that can be performed by doctors to figure out what causes your symptoms.

  • Skin Prick Test: With this test, a nurse can check for allergies of up to 40 different substances at once. The nurse uses needles that drop each allergen on a marked part of your skin, usually on your back, which will just scratch the skin’s surface with a prick. Luckily, this test will only leave you with brief discomfort and is not painful. After about 15 minutes, the nurse will check to see if you experienced any allergic reactions. If you are allergic to a substance, the area will be itchy, swollen and red, almost like a mosquito bite. To check the severity of the allergy, that area will be measured in size.
  • Skin Injection Test: In some cases people do not react to a skin prick test, even if they are allergic to a substance. If this happens, a nurse will use a skin injection test. Unfortunately, this test is slightly more uncomfortable. A nurse uses a needle to inject the allergen just under your skin. The process after that will be the same as the skin prick test.
  • Other tests: In certain cases, a doctor may decide to use a patch test or blood test. A patch test is usually done to specifically see if a certain substance is causing symptoms of skin irritation. Patch tests take longer to see results, regularly taking about 48 hours. If a doctor suspects that you may have a severe allergy to a skin test, then they will have you do a blood test. This test will measure the allergen-specific antibodies in your blood.

What Comes After the Results

Once you receive feedback on the tests, a doctor will create a treatment plan, which can include medications, dietary changes, allergy shots, or changes to your environment. It is important to listen to your doctor as specific allergies can be very dangerous. Make sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have about your results that you do not understand.

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Photo Credit: Jim Lukach, via Flickr

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Read 9 Comments

  1. Thanks for explaining that allergy testing can take about 30 minutes to an hour and that there are different types of skin tests that could be done. I had only heard of the skin prick test before, so I found it interesting that there are other tests, such as skin injection, that are used when there is no reaction to a skin prick test. My children have been showing symptoms of being allergic, so it might be time to take them to an allergy testing facility.

  2. The ability of an allergy diagnosis doctor to be able to test 40 different substance at once using a skin prick test is jaw-dropping as it took me my whole life to realize that I was allergic to animal furs. That is simply outstanding and makes me want to pay them a visit to learn if I have any other allergies just hiding within me. I’ll be sure to tag my twins along and my wife to have us all tested to make sure that we’ll be safe from any potential allergies that we may have especially food. Thanks!

  3. I didn’t know that there’s actually such a thing as an allergy test. I guess it’s probably because I’ve never had one in my life. Nevertheless, it’s good that you provided some insights on what to expect if you’re going to undergo one of the different types of allergy or skin tests such as a skin injection test. You stated that this test is a little bit more uncomfortable compared to skin prick test because of the use of a needle or syringe. I could only imagine how it feels especially for those who are not used to getting an injection. Just the same, it’s good to know that there are other alternative options to choose from if you’re to take such a test. I would make sure to keep this in mind if I were to take an allergy test of my own. Thanks.

  4. I have been quite curious as to what causes my allergies as they seem to be quite spontaneous. That is why learning that I can have an allergy test where a doctor could identify my issue is great. Additionally, the added benefit of being able to have my own personal treatment plan created by a professional as you’ve mentioned is a great bonus. That is why I’ll be sure to undertake this allergy test as soon as possible to treat this allergy out of my system. Thanks!

  5. I truly appreciated it when you explained the different ways of allergic testing, but what attracted my attention was skin prick test. According to you, it was a test that uses 40 different substances at once and sees if a person has had an allergic reaction to any of them. I guess I can suggest that my brother try that out because he suspects that he’s allergic to pollen. He is worried because his girlfriend has invited him to a garden party, and he wants to make sure that he will not ruin the day for the both of them. Thank you for the info.

  6. My wife and I think that our son might be allergic to nuts, so we are thinking about getting him tested soon. I had no idea that doctors tested different allergens on your back to see if there is a reaction or not. I’m glad that this procedure isn’t painful because it’ll make it much easier to get our son to cooperate.

  7. I’ve been thinking of getting tested for allergies in the near future. It’s good to know that a skin prick test isn’t painful. Is this the most common type of testing done at an allergy clinic?

    1. Hi Shayna! Thanks for stopping by our blog! I’ll share your request with our content team and ask that they feature more recipes and information about gluten-free diets. Thank you, Candice

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