Skin Testing

Zeroing in on what causes allergy symptoms requires the expertise of highly trained allergists, who must skillfully combine details from your symptoms and medical history with test results to determine what substances trigger your allergy issues. A critical piece of the puzzle, skin tests involve scratching or pricking the skin with an extract of the allergen to see if your skin shows a reaction.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

Anyone who shows signs of allergies can be tested. Hay fever, allergic asthma, and eczema sufferers are often in the dark about exactly what causes their condition, so skin testing is an excellent path toward answers. Skin tests can include the following allergens: grass pollens, tree pollens (including mountain cedar), weed pollens (including ragweed), mold, animal dander, dust, insect stings, cockroaches, some medications, and certain foods.

Greater Austin Allergy offers both skin prick and intradermal (injection) tests. With the skin prick test, a drop of the allergen extract is applied using a plastic applicator to prick/scratch the skin’s surface. The intradermal test uses a small needle to inject the allergen just under the skin. Both tests require observation for raised, red, itchy bumps (called wheals). The size of the wheal correlates to your sensitivity to that particular allergen. The reaction typically diminishes within an hour.

Frequently, a skin prick test occurs first, and then the allergy specialist decides whether an intradermal test would provide even more useful information. The intradermal test is considered more sensitive and accurate. The intradermal test is more sensitive than the skin prick test but less specific (can give more false positives). A physician may order one because an allergen did not show a reaction on the skin prick test, but he or she still highly suspects an issue with that substance. Intradermal testing is typically the test of choice for penicillin and insect sting allergies after the skin prick test has been conducted.

Research has shown skin tests to be safe for all ages, although they are not recommended in every circumstance. Some people have skin conditions that would make reading the results next to impossible. Others are unable to stop taking medications that could render the results invalid. If a patient has ever experienced a severe allergic reaction, their doctor may determine that information potentially gleaned from the test is not worth the risk of anaphylaxis.

Before the testing appointment ends, your Greater Austin Allergy physician will explain the findings. Their experience and training will guide their interpretation of your results, as well as the plan going forward. Their goal is to get you living your best and healthiest life, unencumbered by allergy burdens. Your individualized plan may include allergen avoidance measures, as well as medications and possibly immunotherapy. Call us today so we can help get your allergies under control.