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Allergy tests can take two forms:
• Skin prick test
• Blood test
The allergy specialist has a sample of allergens such as foods, dust, pollen, cat hair and dander. They will choose the allergens that they think the patient is most likely to be allergic to. Small drops of the allergen are put on the patients arm and then the skin is gently pricked with a sterile needle so that some of the allergen enters the skin.
The skin is used for allergy testing because it is one of the body’s most sensitive areas.
The specialist will then look for any reaction on the skin at the site of the skin prick test.
Blood tests are easier to do than skin prick tests because it simply requires taking a small sample of blood. The disadvantage to blood tests is that the patient does not receive the results straight away.
Once a small sample of blood is drawn it is sent to a lab to analyse the levels of antibodies in the blood when specific allergens are introduced. The lab technicians will receive a list of allergens that they have been asked to test the blood with.
The blood test results will show the levels of antibody against each allergen tested to confirm the patient is sensitive to that particular allergen.
The difficulty with blood tests is that often the results show positive reactions but it does not necessarily mean that that particular allergen is responsible for the allergy symptoms the patient presents with. For this reason, an allergy specialist will first look at a patient’s symptoms and what they think is causing them and then does the blood tests to confirm their diagnosis.
Dr Peter Saul MB ChB DRCOG DCH MRCGP
10026 Published May 2009
Reviewed November 2012
Review scheduled 2013
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