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Allergy Testing: Determining What You Are Allergic To
Do you find yourself getting a stuffy nose or runny nose in the spring time when the trees are in full bloom? Do you eyes start to water when you visit your aunt's house that has two cats? Do you suffer from painful headaches that are right behind your eyes? When a weather front is about to blow through do you get painful headaches and pressure in your head?
You might have an allergy, but you are not sure of the specific allergen that is triggering your allergic reaction. An allergy doctor will recommend an allergy test or two to diagnose your condition.
There are different types of allergy tests each used to determine different types of allergies. Each test works better for determining certain categories of allergies.
It is a good idea to be familiar with the different methods of allergy testing before you make an appointment with your doctor. Tests can fall into three categories: prick tests, elimination tests, and blood tests.
The scratch tests are probably the most common type of allergy testing that is done. A grid drawn on either the arms or the back and a small amount of the suspected allergen is placed into the grid and the skin is pricked. This allows a small amount of the allergen to be absorbed by the skin. The site is then observed to watch for indication of an allergic reaction such as swelling, redness or itching. A result is often detected in as little as twenty minutes with this method of allergy testing.
With this method many different types of allergens can be tested at the same time. This makes this method very useful when the allergen is unknown, for airborne allergens and for allergies from foods and insect bites.
Elimination diets for food allergies
If a food allergy is suspected, another type of allergy testing that is often performed is the elimination diet. In this process, a variety of foods that are potential allergens are eliminated from the diet for a period of several weeks. Each food is then individually introduced back into the personís diet, with careful observation to see which selection will cause the allergy symptoms to return.
This method of allergy testing works best on mild allergic reactions, but can be potentially dangerous for severe, anaphylactic allergies. If a severe allergy is suspected, there is a third method of allergy testing that is preferred to ensure that a potentially life-threatening substance is not introduced into the body in any way.
The final type of allergy testing that is commonly performed is called a radioallergosorbent test, or RAST. This test is done in the laboratory, using blood that is drawn from the patient. The blood is examined for the presence of immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies, since this will indicate whether the immune system is producing an allergic reaction in the body. Elevated levels of these IgEís can tell your doctor whether you are allergic to certain types of allergens, although this type of allergy testing does not tend to be as accurate or precise as other methods.
Allergy testing is the best way to determine exactly what you are allergic to. There are several different methods each with their strengths and weakness. You will need to work with your allergy doctor to determine which allergy test method is the best for you to determine what is causing your painful allergic reactions. With this knowledge you will be able to avoid the allergens and increase your quality of life.
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