Allergies can really cramp your style, keeping you from enjoying the activities and foods you want to partake in. They can also be very frightening, sometimes causing severe anaphylaxis. At The Angel Plan in Red Oak, Texas, we would like to tell you more about how allergy testing can help.
There are two types of allergy testing methods, depending on whether we are testing for environmental allergies or food allergies. These methods are the ‘skin prick test’, where allergens are introduced into the topmost layer of skin on the arm or back, and the ‘food challenge test’, where allergens are ingested with food. The allergens introduced in both types of tests are minuscule and completely safe, even in an individual with severe allergies.
How Long Does It Take?
Not long at all! If we are testing for environmental allergies with a skin test, it will only take about 15 minutes! If we are doing a food allergy test it will take a bit longer, taking maybe a few hours to complete. A lot of that time is just waiting to see whether you experience a reaction though, so bring a book! They are really both very easy and pain-free tests that will be over before you know it.
When testing for environmental allergies, like hayfever, pollen, and dander, we will do a ‘skin prick test’ which takes only 15 minutes. It is a very quick and effective way to test you for up to 50 different allergies. While this test is mostly done for environmental allergens, we can also use it to test a couple of common food allergies.
Some common allergies that we test for include:
- Animal dander, including cats and dogs
- Dust mites
- Stinging insects
- Some foods such as egg and soy
What Happens During a Skin Test?
This test is very quick, totally painless, and gives you invaluable information about your allergies. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to find out just what you’re allergic to. Lots of people come in thinking that they may have a certain allergy, only to find out that they have several!
Your nurse will draw out a grid on your forearm or back, marking where each allergen test will be given. They will then apply droplets of solution carrying different possible allergens on the markers on your skin. The solution/allergens will be introduced to your skin by making a tiny prick or scratch that just breaks the surface of the skin. This allows a much better reaction to the allergen than would be possible on the surface of the skin alone.
Skin Test Results
We like to wait 15 to 20 minutes after administering the test to give your body a chance to produce an allergic reaction if it is going to. If you do have an allergic response to one of the allergens introduced, the area will likely become slightly irritated and itchy and feel like a mosquito bite.
Quick and Painless
If your child is going to have a skin test, we will likely administer the test on their upper back, instead of the forearm. You can be assured that the pricking/scratching is quick and totally painless. The scratch is extremely superficial, done on the surface of the skin where there are no nerve endings to detect pain. The most discomfort your child is likely to experience is similar to a normal mosquito bite,
Food Challenge Test
If you think or know that you have a food allergy and wish to learn more about it, we will do a special ‘food challenge’ test. When testing for food allergies, we don’t use a skin test, but rather feed you tiny amounts of possible food allergens.
What Happens During a Food Challenge Test?
This test involves preparing pre-measured, minuscule doses of a food allergen for you to eat. The allergen will often be masked in another food item, such as a burger or piece of bread. We observe you closely and record any changes that occur. Sometimes, nothing will happen, and we will conclude that you are not allergic to that particular food. We will slowly increase the pre-measured dose until an allergic response occurs, or it is obvious that you will not react to this allergen.
The food challenge test is very safe, even for those with severe allergies. We use exceptionally small doses, slowly increasing the amounts if you show no response to the allergen. As soon as you do respond to an allergen, we will stop the testing. All we want to do is establish whether a certain allergen provokes a response. We do not need to provoke a large reaction. We will also be ready to respond to any reactions with the appropriate medications.
How Long Does it Take?
The food challenge test takes a bit longer than the skin test. It will usually run from one to three hours, to allow ample time to observe your body for allergic reactions. In some cases, if you are testing many different food allergens, you may need to come in for testing on several occasions to allow your body time to reset itself and completely remove any allergen defense it may have mounted.
Food Elimination Diet Test
Another type of test that can be done that helps to test food intolerances is an elimination diet. This is where you methodically eliminate and then reintroduce possible food allergens/irritants to your diet. We will work closely with you to outline a plan of how to do this in a safe and comfortable manner. This is a good option for people who have mild or complex negative reactions to food.
Symptoms that may occur if you have a food intolerance or mild food allergy include:
- Stomach and bowel irritation
- Headaches after eating
- Unusual fatigue and problems concentrating
- Flu-like aches and pains
How Long Does It Take?
The food elimination diet will usually take a couple of months to properly test. Once we have narrowed down a list of possible foods to test, you will eliminate them from your diet for a couple of weeks. If you are symptom free for at least five consecutive days, you can add in one food you eliminated and observe whether the symptoms return. If they do not, you will then add another possible food irritant back into your diet and again observe the results.
Once you have been tested and know exactly which allergens you have a reaction to, and how strong that reaction is, you are in a good position to consider treatment options. Dr. Maese will outline the various options available to you and help you make the decision that is best for your health and lifestyle.
You may already take medication to help with your allergies, but allergy drugs are much more effective when you can take them prior to being exposed to an allergen. Once you have been tested and have learned what you are allergic to, you are in a better position to pre-empt an allergic reaction and take medication beforehand. This will greatly reduce your allergy-related suffering.
We can also suggest various over-the-counter and prescription medications that may be best suited to your particular needs. After testing, we should know more about which drugs will be most effective, and at what doses. We are able to write prescriptions for you as needed to begin a treatment plan.
Immunotherapy builds your body’s tolerance for an allergen by exposing you regularly to the allergen. You will be given either a liquid or dissolvable pill to place under your tongue. These will have a dose of the allergen in them. Over a period of months, you will take this treatment every couple of weeks. Eventually, you will be able to come in contact with the allergen and have little to no reaction at all. The results of this treatment can last for years after treatment has concluded.
Best for Food Allergies
Oral Immunotherapy is the best method of treatment for food allergies, and can really change your quality of life. It is has proven very effective at eliminating or minimizing even severe allergies, to the point that many people are able to consume foods that may have once sent them into anaphylactic shock. Whether or not you want to eat these foods, it is a great relief to be able to lower your guard against the possibility of accidentally ingesting something dangerous.
Another method of immunotherapy is to inject the allergen regularly over a period of months. This method works just like oral immunotherapy, increasing your body’s tolerance of the allergen. The shots must be administered in a doctor’s office, though, and will require you to come in every few weeks for a period of months. Allergy shots are incredibly effective at eliminating and reducing allergic responses for years after the treatment ends.
Allergy shots are particularly useful for the following:
- Allergic asthma
- Allergies to stinging insects
- Allergic rhinitis
Children and Allergies
It’s hard to see your child suffer, no matter the cause. It’s also frightening when they have a severe food allergy. You feel like nowhere is safe for them. Playdates and birthday parties have to be screened and double-screened for possible allergens. School feels like one big uncontrollable setting, where anything could happen. You pack their EpiPen, have monthly talks with the school nurse, and hope for the best.
It has never been easier to help children with food allergies live a normal life, free of fear. Oral immunotherapy is a simple and easy treatment that you can administer to your child yourself, in your own home. No shots are necessary. And it works. In a 2016 clinical trial, nearly 80% of the preschool children with peanut allergies who underwent oral immunotherapy (OIT) were able to safely consume peanuts at the end of the treatment.
Prevent the Development of Asthma in Your Child
Many children who suffer from allergies that go untreated will go on to develop asthma. Asthma is a condition that ranges from annoying to dangerous. It may last for a short time, or persist over a person’s life. To prevent your child from developing this sometimes dangerous condition, it is important to know if they have any allergies and treat them accordingly.
How To Schedule a Test
What To Do Before You Come In
Some medications, especially allergy medications, will interfere with the results of allergy testing. It is therefore necessary to talk with us about any medication you are currently taking so that we can let you know if you will need to stop taking it for a few days before the test.
Some medications that can interfere with allergy testing include:
- Cold and sinus medications
- Stomach acid medications
- Sleep medications (like Tylenol PM)
- Some anti-anxiety medications
- Some depression medications
15 Minutes For Life-Long Relief
Allergies can really affect your quality of life. They can also lead to other difficult conditions such as asthma. With allergy testing, and in as little as 15 minutes, you can be on your way to life-long relief.