The only way to treat your allergy symptoms is to determine exactly what is causing them. This is done through a series of allergy tests.
A skin prick test is the most common form of allergy testing. This test involves placing a small drop of an allergen extract on your skin. A needle is then used to prick the skin underneath the drop; this allows for a small amount of solution to enter just below the surface of the skin. After 15 minutes any swelling or redness is measured and, depending on the size, is considered a positive reaction. An intradermal skin test is completed next. An intradermal wheal, or bleb, is injected directly under the top layer of skin. After 15 minutes any reactions are measured and classified as either positive or negative.
A blood test is used to measure how much of an allergen-specific antibody, called immunoglobulin E (IgE), is in your blood.
The more allergen-specific IgE in your blood, the more likely you are to be allergic. Blood tests are typically used to confirm the results of a skin test; they may also be used in place of skin tests if a serious allergy makes skin testing unsafe.
Food allergies may be tested with a simple blood draw. An elimination diet involves removing the food in question from your diet for two to four weeks. If your symptoms resolve, there is a good chance the food was causing the reaction. Your doctor may return the problematic food to your diet, just to make sure the symptoms return.
About Our Allergy Testing Procedures
Our management of inhalant (airborne) allergy involves MQT (Modified Quantitative Testing), which is a “screening” of the antigens, and IDT (intradermal skin testing) of 38 different dusts, pollens, and molds most prevalent in this area, as well as cockroach, cat, dog, and feathers. The test will take approximately 2 hours. The MQT is done on the forearm and the IDT test is done on the area between the shoulder and the elbow on both arms. If you are “needle queasy” we will call in a prescription to your pharmacy for a numbing cream to use before you arrive for testing. A small amount of antigen is injected to make a “wheal”, which looks like a small blister. Ten minutes after the complete row of antigens is injected, the arm is checked for any reaction. A positive or negative reaction is determined by the change in the wheal size. By the end of the test you will know the test results, and all information – printed and verbal – will be discussed in detail. Treatment consists of weekly injections, which are initially administered in our office. Once the maintenance dose is reached, they may be continued in the office, be given at another medical facility, or you may be trained to administer them yourself. We also offer sublingual drops which are taken home and placed under the tongue daily. These are great for children and patients who do not tolerate needles well. They are also ideal for patients with co-pays and those who travel any distance to our office. Sublingual drops are not covered by any insurance.
Provocative Neutralization Food Testing is done very much like skin endpoint titration. The seven “hidden” foods that are very prevalent in the average American diet are tested. These are corn (the most commonly used sugar), egg, malt, milk, soy, wheat, and yeast. A wheal is made with a food antigen and the patient observed for any change in condition. This may include headache, fatigue, congestion, cough and many others. If there is a reaction, weaker doses of the same antigen are given until the reaction has cleared. The food that provoked a reaction must be avoided for a certain amount of time to alleviate the symptoms. Nutritional counseling and diet modification will be discussed in detail. Once the food has been avoided for a while, sublingual food drops may be used periodically if the food is to be eaten.
We offer another food test in which 96 foods are tested. This is done through a blood test. The blood sample is sent to Massachusetts where the test is done. The result package includes a list of food sensitivities, foods to avoid, shopping list, menu planning, etc. Our office should receive results in 2 weeks. Sublingual Food drops are not available for this test.
If you are taking a beta-blocker for any reason we will not be able to test you using MQT or IDT. We can still do the food testing through a blood draw. This includes some eye drops mainly used for glaucoma, which also may be beta-blockers. You must discuss medication alternatives with your physician to be tested. We have a list of beta-blockers in the office if you are not sure about the medication you are taking. If you can stop the beta-blocker until after the testing, we have sublingual drops available for treatment. These may be used while taking the beta-blocker.
If you are pregnant or nursing you must wait until after the baby is born or until nursing is stopped before testing. We do not want to introduce something new into your system that may affect baby.
We are always looking for ways to help make life easier for the allergy patient. We test ages five years and older in a patient-friendly environment. You and/or your family member will be treated in a compassionate and caring way.
To determine the exact cause of your symptoms, your allergist will need to complete a series of tests. Don’t wait to seek help.