Allergy Skin Testing Tips

One of the first steps toward successful allergy treatment is testing. A skin test is often done to narrow down the specific allergens that are affecting you. During this test, your allergist will apply a small amount of a variety of common or suspected allergens to your skin. You will then be monitored for a reaction, which indicates an allergy to test item. The following tips can help you get prepared for the allergy test.

Tip #1: Check Out Your Meds

Some medications can give false readings on a skin test, such as a false negative or a false positive. The easiest way to avoid this is to provide your allergist with a list of all over the counter and prescription medications that you take, so they can advise you which to avoid leading up to the test. For example, Mayo Clinic advises that a variety of antihistamines, antidepressants, heartburn medications, and asthma medications can impact your test results.

Tip #2: Clear Your Schedule

While a basic skin test usually only takes a short period of time – the time to apply the allergens and then a short wait period for reactions, followed by your doctor recording the results – you may still want to take the day off from work or other responsibilities. It's rare to experience more than just small hives in reaction to the allergens, but there is always the rare chance that you may have a more severe reaction. For this reason, many allergists will keep you in the office for an hour or longer following a test to ensure no severe reactions occur. Also, depending on the amount of allergens found, you may be quite itchy for some time following the test. This is easier to cope with if you don't need to rush off to work.

Tip #3: Be Prepared for Follow-Ups

Once your allergens are known, your allergist will want to schedule follow-up appointments to begin treatment. This may be limited to medications, or your allergist may recommend allergy shots. In some cases, follow-up testing may be necessary. For example, if there is a suspected food allergy your allergist may want to perform a challenge test at a later date. During this test, you will inhale a small portion of the potential allergen and then be monitored closely for a reaction. These tests are more dangerous, so they are only done when necessary. You may also be asked to do a blood test. These are reserved for allergens that can't be tested via a skin test, or if you are on a medication that may be affecting the outcome of the skin test.  

If you have any further questions, contact a local allergist, such as one from Allergy Asthma & Immunology Center.