Your allergies might hold you back in a number of ways, such as causing you to avoid certain foods or animals. Depending on the severity of the allergy, you might even need to carry medical devices like an inhaler or epinephrine pen with you all the time.
Here’s the good news: It’s 100% easier to manage an allergy when you know what the allergen is. The allergen is the substance, food, or material that your immune system reacts to, which causes your allergy symptoms. This is why allergy testing is so crucial when you want to get your allergies under control: It identifies anything you’re allergic to and can point to your best options for treatment.
While an allergy test doesn’t measure the allergy’s severity, simply identifying the allergen is enough to help your care provider select the most effective option for allergy management in your case. At CN Internal Medicine in Alexandria and Lansdowne, Virginia, our allergy experts and internists conduct allergy tests based on your symptoms and interpret your results right away.
Not all allergy tests work in the same way, even though they all ultimately track your immune system’s response to potential allergens that might be causing symptoms like sneezing, hives, swelling, or diarrhea. A few possibilities for your allergy testing experience at our offices are:
Skin prick tests, also called scratch tests, involve lightly scratching or puncturing your skin with needles dipped in diluted allergens before waiting for a reaction. These tests are great for identifying food allergies and allergies to certain medications, like penicillin.
A patch test can identify allergens that cause skin symptoms like rashes or hives. Your provider places a small amount of a possible allergen on your skin and covers it with a bandage or patch. You wear it for a few days before you visit the office again. Your provider then removes the bandage and checks your skin for a reaction.
A blood test for allergies involves a blood draw. Experts add various allergens to the blood sample you provide and measure the antibodies, which your immune system produces in response to allergens. Around 50-60% of blood allergy tests produce false-positive results, so you might need to explore a bit further with your provider.
If you tend to experience allergic symptoms after a meal, you can use an elimination diet to zero in on the underlying cause. Our providers ask you to avoid or limit specific foods for set time periods to see if your symptoms improve when doing so.
The next step in managing your allergy depends on your test results. If your testing procedures didn’t detect signs of an allergy, you may not need to do anything else or you might need further testing to identify other possible causes of your symptoms.
If allergy testing reveals one or more allergens, you can proceed with getting the treatment you need. Our experts may recommend minor steps such as minimizing or avoiding contact with your allergen or taking over-the-counter allergy medication to manage mild symptoms.
Allergies that cause more severe symptoms require more diligent care in preparation for a potentially life-threatening event called anaphylaxis. You might need to carry a medical card stating you have a serious allergy or an epinephrine auto-injector in case you come in contact with your allergen.
A final option, which might eliminate your symptoms entirely, is to go through immunotherapy. This involves building your tolerance to an allergen to ultimately minimize your immune system’s response to it.
Allergy testing helps you get a handle on your symptoms so you can enjoy life without worrying about an uncomfortable or deadly reaction. Call CN Internal Medicine or schedule your allergy testing appointment online today.