With over 50 million people in the United States living with allergies, it has become more than a “minor inconvenience” of having to avoid certain foods or pets. Allergies can be triggered by a wide range of substances. From foods and medication, to pollen and insect bites, allergens are everywhere. This is why it’s so important to go for allergy tests. Believe it or not, we can easily cross paths with allergens that could harm, or potentially kill us, without even knowing it.
Why and How Do You Get an Allergy?
Allergies are explained as your body’s reaction to normally harmless substances. The body reacts to these foreign proteins (allergens), and if one is allergic to them, the body’s natural defense system (the immune system) overreacts to their presence in your body, in various ways.
From vomiting and sneezing, to swelling and shortness of breath, these all depend on the type of allergy you have, and what you have ingested/come into contact with.
Differentiating Between An Allergy, and A Normal Reaction
When you first think of an allergic reaction, you might think of someone gasping for air, trying to use their epipen. But this isn’t how all allergies look. As a matter of fact, you could be having an allergic reaction, without even realizing it. This means you keep engaging with/ingesting a substance your body is rejecting, and this can affect your health in the long run.
Also, you could think you’re allergic to something when your nasal passages are just dry or irritated. This is why it is important that you conduct this test, so you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Pinpointing the Allergy
Allergy tests help you pinpoint exactly what allergens your body is rejecting or sensitive to. Whether it be peanuts, touching a fluffy dog, or being outside while it’s windy, these allergens are everywhere, and you could be mistaking a supposedly normal body reaction for an actual allergy.
This ensures that you know exactly what you need to treat, take the right medication, and know what to avoid.
Know Your Allergens
Allergens are typically split into two groups, namely:
- Inhaled Allergens: Also known as inhalants, these substances can affect you throughout the year, along with seasonal allergies. Symptoms that accompany these include:
- Runny Nose
- Itchy Nose
- Itchy Eyes
- Watery Eyes
- Ingested Allergens: The most common of these are food allergies. They develop when your body releases a specific antibody in response to a certain food. An allergic reaction takes place soon after the food is consumed, with the possibility of the symptoms being severe. The most common food allergies are:
- Tree Nuts
- Symptoms that accompany these include:
- Generalized pruritus: Itching all over your body
- Localized pruritus: Itching on a certain part of your body
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Swelling around your mouth, including your throat, tongue, or face
- This also takes place due to certain medications, including penicillin, insulin, and antibiotics. Symptoms that accompany these allergies include:
- Shortness of Breath
Types of Allergy Tests
- Allergy Skin Test: This is used to test for insect sting allergies, seasonal allergies, and food allergies. During this test, the suspected allergen is placed on the skin. After 15 minutes, the area was analyzed to see which substance caused a reaction. There are two methods of testing, namely:
- Prick Skin Testing: Suspected allergens are placed on one’s skin using a prick device, with results available after 15 minutes
- Intradermal Skin Testing: Suspected allergens are placed under the surface of the skin (epidermis) using a small needle, with results also available after 15 minutes
- Blood Test: Also known as specific IgE test (or RAST), this completes the allergy evaluation. It can also be used in the event that skin testing isn’t appropriate. This test measures a substance called immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the blood. It is an antibody that your body makes in response to the presence of allergens. If you have allergies, you are likely to have an above-normal amount of IgE in your blood.
When Are Allergy Tests Advised?
Everyone should be getting tested for their allergies, however, there are instances where it is heavily stressed and of utmost importance, namely:
- When You Have Asthma: An allergy test can identify allergy triggers that not only worsen asthma symptoms but also trigger an asthma attack
- Anaphylaxis: This is a life-threatening problem that can lead to swelling, difficulty breathing, and a quick drop in your blood pressure. This is when one would need to carry epinephrine (adrenaline) to treat the allergic reaction they are being faced with.
Don’t Play A Guessing Game With Your Health
There is a wide range of allergic reactions, from congestion issues to itchy, red skin. We cannot play the guessing game when it comes to our health, so we need to be totally aware of what we’re touching/taking, and pay close attention to how it treats us.
The best way to do this is to go for an allergy test, as it makes it easier for you to identify substances you should be staying away from, to ensure your health is at its optimum level.
- Ramírez-Marín, H.A., Singh, A.M., Ong, P.Y. and Silverberg, J.I., 2022. Food allergy testing in atopic dermatitis. JAAD international, 9, pp.50-56.
- Shenoy, E.S., Macy, E., Rowe, T. and Blumenthal, K.G., 2019. Evaluation and management of penicillin allergy: a review. Jama, 321(2), pp.188-199.