What to Expect from an Allergy Test

Dr. Angela Seabright
Alexandria Iacobelli

| 3 min read

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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