Allergy test helps in detecting the specific agent or agents to which a person is allergic. The test is a simple and non invasive procedure and can be done on outpatient basis. It is a blood test or a skin test.
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Allergy is body's natural and spontaneous response to fend off the effects of an unfavorable agent. It commonly presents in the form of a sudden attack of sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, coughing, slight difficulty in breathing, stomach ache, vomiting, itchy and red skin etc. A person rarely gets all of these symptoms together; they are usually experienced individually or in a random group. Allergic response is usually sudden after exposure to the allergy causing agent.
Types of Allergy causing agents:
Inhalants: A person may be allergic to fumes emitted from paint on the walls, certain chemicals, perfumes, pesticides, incense sticks etc.
Food items: It has been observed that food with high protein content is more prone to cause allergic response than other food. Shell fish, fish, eggs, soy, mushrooms are the most common allergens among food items.
Allergen of animal origin: Many children and adults are known to be allergic to animal fur. Apart from this, insect bite from bees, wasps, hornets is prone to cause severe allergic response.
External agents: Cosmetics, soaps, powders, even certain materials of cloth, jewelery are known to incite allergic response in people.
How is allergy test conducted?
Allergy test is a quite simple procedure to conduct, but determining the results requires great skill on part of the doctor. Following steps are involved in the allergy test:
The patient is expected to visit a well equipped pathology laboratory for the test.
A few potential allergens are kept ready and are injected very lightly into the patient's skin.
The skin is observed for any changes like allergy, rash, redness of skin etc.
If the allergen fails to give any reaction, then a heavier dose of it is administered deeper into the patient's skin.
Depending on the changes in the patient's skin, the allergy causing agent can be narrowed down upon.
A path of the corresponding allergen is then pasted to the patient's skin for a time span of up to 48 hours.
This patch of skin is examined again and the final conclusion about allergy causing agent can be drawn.
Precautions to be followed prior to allergy test:
Patients maybe advised the following precautions before the test:
The patient may be asked to reduce exposure to probable allergy causing substances which may be harming their health.
Diet restrictions may be put on the patient to avoid consumption of probable food allergens.
Patient could be advised to avoid taking any anti-allergy medicines till the test results are received.
Apart from this, blood levels of IgE could be tested to detect allergic response. IgE is part of the natural defense mechanism of the body. Levels of this substance increase substantially during any allergic response.
Allergy test is very helpful in determining the causative factor for the patient's health issues. Knowing these factors helps in eliminating them and thus preventing further health issues.
Allergy Test FAQs
Q: What is allergy? A: An allergy or hypersensitivity is an abnormal immune response of the body against seemingly harmless substance. It often manifests in the form of sneezing, fever, hives and difficult in breathing.
Q: What is an allergy test? A: Allergy tests involve studying the body's reaction to allergy causing substances (allergens). This can be done by observing skin reactions, formation of antibodies in blood or eliminating certain foods from diet.
Q: Why is allergy test required? A: An allergy test may be needed to rule out the cause of certain conditions like hay fever, rhinitis, urticaria and asthma. Harmless substances like pollen grains or food items can trigger a life threatening response from the body. Finding out the cause helps in avoiding it altogether.
Q: How is allergy testing done? A: You may have to undergo a routine blood test where a blood sample is drawn from your veins. Or if a skin test is done, tiny doses of allergens are applied or injected inside your skin to check for any reaction.
Q: Are there risks associated with allergy testing? A: Though the allergens used in an allergy test are of minute quantity, chances do exist of an impending hypersensitive reaction. You may feel itchy, have a runny nose or experience anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) which is a medical emergency.