What is skin testing for allergies?
The most common way to test for allergies is on the skin, usually the forearm or the back. In a typical skin test, a doctor or nurse will place a tiny bit of an allergen (such as pollen or food) on the skin, then make a small scratch or prick on the skin.
The allergist may repeat this, testing for several allergens in one visit. This can be a little uncomfortable, but not painful.
If your child reacts to one of the allergens, the skin will swell a little in that area. The doctor will be able to see if a reaction occurs within about 15 minutes. The swelling usually goes down within about 30 minutes to a few hours. Other types of skin testing include injecting allergens into the skin or taping allergens to the skin for 48 hours.
With a skin test, an allergist can check for these kinds of allergies:
Some medications (such as antihistamines) can interfere with skin testing, so check with the doctor to see if your child's medications need to be stopped before the test is done. While skin testing is useful and helpful, sometimes additional tests (like blood tests or food challenges) also must be done to see if a child is truly allergic to something.
While skin tests are usually well tolerated, in rare instances they can cause a more serious allergic reaction. This is why skin testing must always be done in an allergist's office, where the doctor is prepared to handle a reaction.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: May 2012
|American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.|
|American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology|
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
|The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) The FAAN mession is to raise public awareness, provide advocacy and education and to advance research on behavior for all of those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis.|
|Word! Skin Test If you think that you might have allergies, a special doctor called an allergist can help figure out what you are allergic to by giving you a skin test.|
|All About Allergies Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have an allergy. Find out how allergies are diagnosed and how to keep them under control.|
|Blood Test: Immunoglobulin E (IgE) The immunoglobulin E (IgE) test is often performed as part of an initial screen for allergies. High IgE levels also may indicate a parasitic infection.|
|Food Allergies Struggling with strawberries? Petrified of peanuts? Sorry you ate shellfish? Maybe you have a food allergy. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|How Do Doctors Test for Allergies? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|How Do Doctors Test for Food Allergies? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Food Allergies Doctors are diagnosing more and more people with food allergies. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with food allergies can make a big difference in preventing serious illness.|
|Blood Test: Immunoglobulins (IgA, IgG, IgM) Evaluated together, immunoglobulins (antibodies in the blood) can give doctors important information about immune system functioning, especially relating to infection or autoimmune disease.|
|Allergy Testing Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests.|
|Blood Test: Allergen-Specific Immunoglobulin E (IgE) This test is done to check for allergies to specific allergens. It's especially useful in kids who've had life-threatening reactions to a certain allergen and for whom a skin-prick test would be too dangerous.|
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