When you’re among the 50 million women, men, and children in the United States who have allergies, you may feel like you’re stumbling in the dark. Just when you think you’ve locked down what you’re allergic to, you have an allergy attack seemingly out of the blue.
While the most common allergies are seasonal allergies — pollen in the spring and summer, then ragweed in the fall — you could be allergic to any substances, including dust, mold, and food. How do you sort through all the possible allergic triggers to find the ones that set off your symptoms?
At Macomb Medical Clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan, our board-certified family physicians and medical experts offer allergy testing so that you can be comfortable, no matter the environment or season. Once you know your triggers, you can avoid them and get the right kind of medication to help manage symptoms.
Skin-prick allergy tests
The most common and effective type of allergy test is the skin-prick method. Your practitioner places up to 50 potential allergens on a marked-out section of your inner arm or back. After applying each allergen, they use a special, one-use needle or device to gently scratch or puncture the allergen-laden skin.
Each allergen is tested with a separate needle. Approximately 15 minutes after a substance was applied and your skin was pricked or scratched, your doctor may notice a reaction. A rash or a “weal” (i.e., raised round spot) on that allergen indicates that you’re allergic to it.
Intradermal allergy tests
Sometimes, your skin-prick test is inconclusive. Or, for instance, you don’t react to a substance that you already know is a trigger. In these cases, we may recommend an intradermal allergy test.
During an intradermal allergy test, we inject the allergen directly into your skin rather than merely brushing it on the skin surface and scratching. We usually perform an intradermal test for allergens such as insect stings, airborne irritants, and medications. If your skin reacts to the allergen, we know it’s a trigger.
Blood (IgE) allergy tests
If we haven’t gotten answers from the skin-prick or intradermal tests, we may take a sample of your blood and then send it to the lab. The lab then adds suspected allergens to discrete blood samples.
They measure the levels of IgE antibodies in each sample to see if your immune system responded. If it did, you’re allergic. Blood tests, though, have a high rate of false negatives and false positives.
Food elimination allergy test
If you eat a (recommended) varied diet, testing you for every possible food and beverage you consume would be nearly impossible. Instead, if you or we suspect that you have a food allergy, we recommend an elimination diet.
During a set period (usually no more than six weeks), you cut out all of the foods that you either suspect you’re allergic or sensitive to or which are the most common culprits of food allergies. Foods and substances you avoid during this period include:
- Citrus fruit
After the elimination period (assuming your symptoms have resolved), you move into the re-introduction period. One by one, you add back a category or food you’d eliminated and try it for 2-3 days.
If you do not react, you can assume that you’re not allergic or sensitive to it. If you do react, you may need to remove that food or category from your diet permanently.
Allergy tests give you answers … and relief
After allergy testing, you no longer have to guess about what causes your sneezing, sniffling, coughing, and rash outbreaks. Then you can avoid the allergen (such as avoiding homes with pets if you’re allergic to pet dander; or switching to non-dairy products if you’re sensitive or allergic to dairy).
Once we know your triggers, we, too, better know what medications to prescribe for those times when a trigger can’t be avoided.
Don’t guess about allergens or shut yourself in trying to avoid them: Book allergy testing and treatment today at Macomb Medical Clinic. Give us a call at 586-315-2393 or use our online contact form.