While skin testing for allergies is harmless, many individuals are still wary of the procedure. The sting of the needle contributes to the wariness, although it must be said that misconceptions reinforce it.
Basically, skin testing for allergies is used in the identification of substances that cause the symptoms of allergy. A doctor or nurse usually performs the test by applying an allergen extract to the skin, pricking or scratching the skin to expose it to the extract, and then evaluating the skin’s reaction to it.
Variations in Procedure
The actual steps in a skin allergy test depend on the type of test. Doctors choose from three main types, namely:
- Scratch test
Your doctor or nurse will choose several spots on your forearm, clean them with alcohol, and then mark them with a pen (i.e., circle). Each circle will indicate the type of allergen that will be tested, such as pollen, insect venom, and animal dander.
The allergen extract will then be introduced to the skin’s outer layer (i.e., epidermis) via a small disposable pricking device. This is arguably where the fear of skin allergy tests come in – the skin prick is perceived as an injection shot when it is actually not.
- Intradermal test
This is similar to a tuberculosis test except that the injected substance is an allergen extract. After the skin is examined and cleaned, a small amount of the allergen extract will be injected just under the skin.
- Patch skin
For persons with fear of needles, the patch test is their best choice. An allergen is applied on a patch that, in turn, will be placed on the skin.
Duration of the Test
While the injection or application of the allergen extract itself will take less than 5 minutes, you should plan for an hour’s stay in the clinic for a routine skin allergy test. Keep in mind that the injected allergen should be left as is for 5-10 minutes, which is followed by another 15 minutes of waiting for your skin’s reaction, if any.
Your doctor will then evaluate your skin’s reactions, determine the medications, and discuss preventive measures, among other things, for the next 30 minutes.
In case of a patch test, you must wear the patch for 48 hours for the allergens to manifest their effects. Your doctor will also anticipate delayed reactions. You should avoid bathing and swimming while wearing the patch.
Before going to the skin allergies test, be sure to inform your doctor or nurse about any medicines that you have been taking. You should also discuss about discontinuing your over-the-counter anti-allergy or antihistamine medicines a few days prior to the test; these medications counteract the effect of the allergens.
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