Frequently Asked Questions About Allergy

HOW IS ALLERGY SKIN TESTING DONE?

Allergy skin testing is done using a small piece of plastic that has a few sharp points. This apparatus sits in a well of allergen extract. The child’s back is cleaned with alcohol. A few marks are made on the skin to identify the areas where the tests are placed. The plastic apparatus is used to make a slight prick to the skin. A timer is set for 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes have passed, the physician examines the skin to determine test results. The time this test takes varies depending on the child and the number of tests being given. Optimally, 50 tests can be placed in just over 2 minutes. The entire procedure is done quickly.

ARE THERE BLOOD TESTS THAT CAN BE USED FOR DIAGNOSING ALLERGY?

Blood tests are another way to evaluate for allergy. The blood test is referred to as specific IgE. Blood tests for allergy are not better than skin tests. It is simply another tool for diagnosing allergy. Blood tests may test for many items that are not relevant to the child’s history. We use the specific IgE test for individual food allergens as we follow a child’s natural history of a food allergy. The specific IgE to a food that was diagnosed by patient history and by skin prick tests can be used to suggest the risk of having a reaction. These tests help us decide which patients should try a food challenge and what the risk of having a reaction may be.

The Choosing Wisely® campaign is an initiative to help physicians and patients engage in conversations to reduce the overuse of tests and procedures. The goal is to support physician efforts to help patients make smart and effective choices about their care. There are specific recommendations provided by the Choosing Wisely® campaign and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in relation to allergy testing.

CAN DROPS TREAT ALLERGIES?      

Currently in the U.S., the answer is no. When an allergic condition is treated by giving an allergen orally, it is called sublingual immunotherapy. This has been around for many years in Europe. The United States does not have the same allergen extracts that are used in Europe. The materials used in Europe have not been approved for use in the U.S.

Oral immunotherapy (given as drops) is being used in research studies for food allergy. At this time, the work is experimental and not standard care.

CAN ALLERGY TESTING HELP WITH BEHAVIORAL ISSUES, ADHD OR AUTISM?

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology states, “Attention-deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity, autism and other behavior problems have never been convincingly demonstrated to be related to ingestion of food.” The types of allergy testing that we offer assist with allergic reactions that occur within two hours of consuming a food and are associated with hives, wheezing, swelling or other severe reactions. We do not offer any allergy testing in relation to behavioral issues.

CAN ALLERGY TESTING HELP WITH REACTIONS TO FOOD ADDITIVES?

Immediate allergic reactions to food additives are rare, but can occur. Unfortunately, there are no validated allergy tests for food additives, dyes or preservatives.

HOW HELPFUL ARE FOOD IGG TESTS?

The position of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is that food-specific IgG studies, along with provocation-neutralization assays and hair analysis, are unproven or experimental in diagnosing allergies. A recent study published in The Lancet concluded that diets using results of food IgG testing to manage ADHD should be discouraged.

The Choosing Wisely® campaign is an initiative to help physicians and patients engage in conversations to reduce the overuse of tests and procedures. The goal is to support physician efforts to help patients make smart and effective choices about their care. There are specific recommendations provided by the Choosing Wisely® campaign and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in relation to allergy testing.

HOW CAN ALLERGY TESTING HELP WITH ASTHMA MANAGEMENT?

As many as 70 to 80 percent of patients with asthma have some type of allergic sensitization. Identification of those sensitivities can help guide treatment for asthma. Treating nasal and sinus issues can also improve asthma symptoms. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute also states that the impact of allergies on asthma is greater in children than in adults. Allergy treatment can include environmental control, medication and possibly immunotherapy (such as allergy injections). An allergist is specially trained to help manage allergy and asthma issues.

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