Allergy testing gives allergy sufferers a better understanding as to what allergens may be triggering their allergy symptoms. You can find the answers to the five key questions for allergy testing below.
What is allergy testing?
During allergy testing, you are exposed to a suspect allergen to see whether or not your body produces an immune response to it.
How is allergy testing carried out?
There are three main types of allergy testing:
There is also The Allergen Provocation Testing for airborne allergens which are performed only in a hospital. The doctor introduces the suspect allergen directly into the nose, lung or eye to see if it induces a response.
Patch allergy testing is available for most common allergens, like house dust mite or pet dander. Blood allergy testing can identify as many as 400 different allergens. With developments in protein analysis (allergens are proteins), it is likely that this number could be greatly expanded in the future.
Ask your GP in the first instance for a referral to an allergy clinic. Not all NHS hospitals have an allergy clinic so you may need to travel/wait for an appointment. You can also get tests at a private allergy clinic, but be sure you are going to an accredited allergy specialist for this (check the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology listings). Tests offered online or by alternative medicine clinics are not proven and are therefore not recommended at the current time. Tests on the NHS are free but you will have to pay at a private clinic.
Allergy testing is a useful tool where your allergy symptoms are severe and the cause is not obvious. But it cannot tell you how severe your response to that allergen will be in a 'real world' situation. The test is only part of the diagnostic process; your doctor should also take a full history of your exposures to the allergen and symptoms. And, of course, the test cannot cure your allergy – it can only guide you in practicing effective allergen avoidance and the management of your allergy symptoms. Very occasionally, allergy testing will provoke a severe allergic response. Seek medical help immediately if you experience symptoms such as swelling of the face, lips or mouth or difficulty in swallowing, rash, shortness of breath, wheezing or lightheadedness.