1. What types of tests are used to detect allergies?
There are four types of tests commonly used to detect allergies:
- Skin testing – droplets of suspected allergens are placed on or just under the skin surface; raised bumps (about the size of a mosquito bite) strongly indicate a reaction or allergy to that allergen
- RAST testing – a blood test that detects specific allergy antibodies
- IgE testing – a blood test that detects the presence of allergy antibodies; does not identify specific allergens
- Immunocap – the most recently FDA-approved test which reliably tests for hundreds of allergens in a single blood test
2. I have heard that allergy testing is not reliable for infants and small children. At what age can it be done?
There are no age restrictions for allergy testing. Reliable results may be obtained by a board-certified allergist on patients of any age.
3. How accurate is allergy testing in identifying allergens?
Tests are very accurate in showing an immune response to a particular allergen, but they don’t determine for sure whether it is the one (or dozen) responsible for your symptoms. That’s where you and your board-certified allergist create a strategy and homework begins. For example, if you are allergic to mold, it’s time to check your home for sources of mold that have gone long unnoticed. Fix the source of the mold and wash the area with a vinegar and water mixture, and if your symptoms improve – great! Keep going down the list of things you test allergic to, do your best to eliminate or avoid them, and if need be, use medications. Controlling allergies can be a complex process, which is why tests should be conducted and results interpreted by a board-certified allergist.