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How An Allergy Test Can Help You

Ever find yourself constantly sneezing when spring rolls around? Do you know someone that cannot eat peanut butter or maybe shellfish? Nearly 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergy, whether they are aware of it or not. That number is constantly growing with thousands of cases added each day. Many of us pass off these battles as one-time allergic reactions or as a minor inconvenience, while others must live in fear of life-threatening allergies all the time.

The immune systems of people suffering from allergies react to substances many of us may find harmless or didn’t even factor in its potential. Allergic symptoms range from mild to severe, and individuals suffering from allergies are susceptible to many triggers.

But, why live this way when there’s a fix?

What To Do?

A person who suspects allergies causes their constant sneezing or short-breath must consult a physician right away. Children may outgrow allergies altogether and in some cases, the symptoms may lighten up to the point of being overlooked. Immune systems invariably weaken as a person grows older. As adults, symptoms may not just disappear. Allergies and their symptoms get worse, not better.

Allergies are the number-one chronic condition worldwide. The most common substances causing allergies are:

pollen and dust mites
hair and pet dander
foods, such as peanuts and shellfish

Treatments alone cannot eliminate allergies; however, appropriate medication can minimize the severity and frequency of the symptoms. Symptoms an individual encounters will be based on the severity of the condition. Testing helps to rule out the existence or establish the allergen type a person is dealing with.

Types of Allergy Tests

Prick Test
A prick test, or punctured/scratched test, will expose your skin to a variety of substances. Skin tests help pinpoint:

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
Allergic asthma
Dermatitis (eczema)
Food allergies
Penicillin allergies
Bee venom

Prick tests are typically safe for adults, children, and babies. The physician will review any health histories to establish the validity of a test and any issues a patient may have. A skin prick test is most helpful for diagnosing dust mites, pollen, and pet dander. Food allergies may call for additional checks. Tests will be performed in a doctor’s office by the attending nurse and will normally take about an hour.

The assistant makes a mark on the upper arm and applies a drop of allergen to each mark. The assistant will then use a lancet and prick the drop of allergen into the skin. The skin should respond normally when pricked with histamine, glycerin or saline. After about 15 minutes, the assistant notes any reaction. There is an allergic reaction if the skin produces a red welt the size of a mosquito bite. The size of the bump is measured, then recorded for interpretation by your specialist.

The doctor may further recommend a skin injection test. Injecting the skin with a needle shows an allergic reaction to insect venom or penicillin.

Another skin test is the use of a patch attached to the upper arm or back. The patch is applied with 20 to 30 substances that can induce contact dermatitis including latex, medications, hair dyes, and resins. Worn for 48 hours, the patches are returned to the doctor for analysis.

In most cases, you will have the results of each test before leaving the doctor’s office. Positive results mean you are hypersensitive to a distinct material. However, skin tests are not conclusive and on-point (no pun intended). Tests may show false positives, or you may react differently at separate times of the day. Also, lab tests may not be valid in real-world conditions.

Your treatment plan can be from medications, immunotherapy, or modifications to your current home environment. Your doctor may specify a single medication or a sequence of medicines and treatments. It is fundamental to ask the doctor questions and learn what your choices are.

Blood Testing
Blood testing is another option your doctor has at their disposal to determine allergies you may have. Blood tests measure allergen-specific antibodies. A person reacts to specific triggers they may come in contact with, and the body manufactures antibodies against them.

Blood tests screen for several allergens and are effective for identifying a person’s food allergies. There are two tests associated with allergy blood tests.

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA or EIA) Measures allergen-specific antibodies
Radioallergosorbent (RAST) Looks for allergen-specific antibodies to identify triggers

There are other blood tests your doctor will suggest, which measure specific chemicals in the blood responsible for allergic reactions. Testing the skin or the prick test is the favored approach for diagnosing allergic conditions. However, a physician may prefer a blood test in specific circumstances:

Current vital medications interfering with a skin test
Multiple skin scratches cannot be endured
Unstable heart condition
Poorly handled Asthma
Severe eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis
May have an extreme anaphylaxis reaction to the tests

Blood testing for allergies will take weeks to learn the results, whereas the findings of a skin test are immediate. A positive blood test will reveal precisely the problems. Negative results mean there is no true issue, or your system is unaffected to the allergen tested. Another way for doctors to detect allergies is by examining the lungs for blockages.

Allergy Lung Test
A Spirometry/Pulmonary Function Test measures how much air you can inhale/exhale and how fast. The test is non-invasive and designed to detect any blockages that may be generated by asthma allergies. Your physician will ask you to inhale a medication called bronchodilator such as albuterol. The medication causes your airways to expand.

While sitting, the doctor will request you to breathe into a device called a spirometer. The machine measures the rate of air you inhale and exhale and at what percentage.

Who To Call For The Best Allergy Testing

The team of physicians at Becker Ear, Nose, and Throat Center are experts at diagnosing issues associated with allergy. Each of the board-certified physicians, nurse practitioners, and assistants are committed to helping. The physicians at Becker Ear, Nose, & Throat Center are respected around the world for their expertise. Becker ENT Center has three convenient locations to serve their patients. In Central New Jersey, call (609) 436-5740. Southern New Jersey, call (856) 772-1617 and in Philadelphia, PA, call (215) 515-5999.

Please visit the Becker ENT site for more information on these allergists from Princeton and Robbinsville, NJ.

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