With allergies, on the rise, it seems that allergy testing has become one of the rites of childhood. There are more documented allergy cases worldwide than ever before. As as result, more parents than ever are considering allergy testing. Their goal is simple. They hope to learn the exact cause of their children’s allergic reactions.
As part of our [link] myth busting series, we have uncovered five myths about allergy tests. Here, we separate fact from fiction when it comes to testing your child for allergies.
5 Myths About Allergy Tests To Watch Out For
Myth #1: Allergy testing is the definitive way to diagnose allergies
Your child’s allergies are best diagnosed by an allergist-immunologist, or by a pediatrician who has been trained to diagnose and manage allergic disorders. A qualified allergist must be familiar with your child’s detailed medical history. Allergy tests actually play a supportive role. Scientifically, allergy testing actually identifies ‘sensitization’ – a stage prior to ‘allergy’. It is possible your child is sensitized to an allergen, but not actually allergic to it.
Myth #2: All types of allergies may be diagnosed by testing
There are many types of allergies. The most commonly used allergy testing are skin prick tests and serum tests. Both of these tests can help to diagnose the most common type of allergies: immunoglobin E (IgE)-mediated, or Type I, allergies. However, these commonly-used tests cannot diagnose other types of allergies. Patch testing is a test used to diagnose cell-mediated, or Type IV allergies. Unfortunately, patch testing is not available everywhere. There are no standardized tests for other types of allergies.
Myth #3: Serum testing is the best method to diagnose allergies
Most allergists prefer skin prick testing as the best method to identify Type I allergies. It’s inexpensive and offers results quickly; generally within 30 minutes. Skin prick tests can give a “yes” or “no” answer to whether your child is sensitive to certain allergens. They also require that she stop taking allergy medicines for a period of time before testing.
However, there are circumstances where serum tests are preferred over skin prick tests. Serum tests can tell you exactly how much IgE is circulating in your child’s blood, and can be preferable for kids who are currently suffering from skin rashes or who cannot stop taking their antihistamine medication before testing.
Intradermal testing is another kind of test, but it is rarely used. If your allergist suspects that your child is sensitive to an allergen even though he or she doesn’t show symptoms, she may order an intradermal test. Intradermal testing is more sensitive than the skin prick test.
Myth #4: Skin prick tests are painful and cause bleeding
Only the most superficial layer of the skin is pierced in skin prick allergy testing. This layer is called the epidermis. A skin prick here normally causes very little pain and almost no bleeding. This is very different from intradermal testing, where the needle goes deeper and causes more pain. However, children highly sensitive to the allergens introduced during the testing may be very uncomfortable as their skin reacts.
Myth #5: Skin prick allergy testing is not safe
Skin prick testing is quite safe. Adverse reactions to skin prick testing are very rare. In the very unusual case of an adverse reaction, allergists’ offices are always prepared with medications to manage the body’s response.
Have you heard any other myths about allergy tests that need to be busted? You can read more of our myth busting series, where to set the facts straight about [link] top allergy myths and allergy medications.