Allergies are a chronic problem for millions of Americans. The key to successful treatment is determining which allergens are responsible for triggering your symptoms. To accomplish this, your doctor will order allergy testing.
Allergy Testing: Skin v. Blood
There are two types of allergy tests commonly used: skin tests and blood tests. Each has their pros and cons, but skin tests are preferred by most doctors as they are safe, inexpensive and provide the most reliable results.
Allergy testing is done via skin or blood. In Modified Quantitative Testing (MQT), a combination of skin pricks and intradermal needles containing drops of the suspected allergen is utilized. A multi-pronged device is used to scratch the skin, allowing the allergen to penetrate and creating a wheal, or raised bump. If any redness or swelling develops, the results are considered positive and no further testing is required for that antigen. When results are negative, a small gauge needle is used to inject the allergen directly into the skin. MQT is more comprehensive in that it not only identifies whether you are allergic to a substance, but also helps to determine the best starting dose for your allergy treatment. Treatment can begin upon physician approval.
Allergy skin testing rarely causes discomfort or complications. There may be a little redness, swelling and itching, but this typically subsides quickly. In extremely rare cases, severe allergic reactions can occur immediately.
Patients who cannot tolerate skin testing may be given blood tests. These are usually less reliable.